An excessive heat watch alert is in effect from Wednesday, July 17 to Sunday, July 21 from the National Weather Service.
More people die from heat-related illnesses each year in the United States than they do from tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, or any other weather event combined, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lancaster County is likely to experience its first heat-wave of the summer this week, with 3+ 90-degree days in a row anticipated for the end of the week.
A heat wave is not unusual as the third week in July is often the warmest week of the summer in Lancaster County, according to Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst.
The combination of temperatures in the 90s and high humidity from tropical rainstorm Barry create a dangerous situation in which heat illness is possible. The National Weather Service advises everyone to stay out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid outdoor exercise.
Young children, the elderly, those with mental illness, and those with chronic health problems are at greatest risk for heat-related illness. However, even young, healthy people can be at risk for heat illness if they do not remain hydrated and overexpose themselves to the sun.
Heat illness is possible once temperatures reach 82 degrees, and with temperatures expected to be in the 90s through Sunday there is an extreme risk of heat stroke with sun exposure.
Heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, occur when the body struggles to cool itself. The human body uses the evaporation of sweat from the body to maintain a safe body temperature, but when the humidity is high sweat cannot evaporate.
Heat-related illnesses are preventable, but it’s important to identify the warning signs and react quickly. Heat exhaustion is identifiable by heavy sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, cool, moist skin with goosebumps when in the heat, muscle cramps, nausea and headache, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Heatstroke is the most severe heat-related illness and, without emergency treatment, it can lead to death. The symptoms of heatstroke include high body temperature, lack of sweating, altered mental state or behavior, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing and racing heart rate.
Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from heatstroke.
If heat exhaustion is suspected it is important to cool the body down by getting out of the sun, removing any tight clothing, and placing ice packs in the armpits and groin regions.
To keep the body hydrated in high heat it is best to avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar. Consume enough water so that your urine is clear.