National Heat Awareness Day Date in the current year: May 31, 2024

National Heat Awareness Day National Heat Awareness Day is observed annually on the last Friday of May. It was created to raise awareness of the potential dangers of heat-related illnesses among people who work or simply spend much time outside.

Spending too much time in a high-temperature environment without hydration and protection from UV rays can lead to a range of disorders caused by increased body temperature, collectively known as heat illnesses. Heat illnesses can affect any body systems, often several at once, and range from mild to severe and even life-threatening (severe heat stroke, for example, can result in seizures or kidney failure if left untreated for too long).

The most common heat illnesses include:

  • Heat cramps: muscle cramps caused by heavy exercise in hot weather.
  • Heat edema: swelling of the hands and/or legs.
  • Heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, tachycardia, rapid breathing.
  • Heat rash: small, itchy rashes caused by heat and sweating.
  • Heat stroke: a severe heat illness characterized by confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea, skin redness, and sweating.
  • Heat syncope: dizziness or fainting due to overheating.

No one is immune to heat illnesses, but some people are more at risk than others. They include construction workers, farmers and other people who work outside in hot weather, athletes, infants and the elderly, pregnant women, people with pre-existing health conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes, and people who take certain medications such as antihypertensives, antihistamines or diuretics.

Heat illnesses should not be underestimated: according to the National Weather Service’s Natural Hazard Statistics, heat kills more people than lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes, and cold weather combined. This is why it is so important to take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses (stay hydrated, avoid extreme physical activity during the hottest hours of the day if possible, take frequent breaks when working outside in the heat, wear weather-appropriate clothes, etc.) and be able to recognize the first signs of heat-related illnesses such as dry mouth, confusion, headache, slight dizziness, and weakness.

What should you do if you see someone suffering from a heat-related illness? Your first step would be calling for emergency medical help. Once help is on its way, carefully move the person to a cold shaded place and allow them to sip water if they’re conscious. You can also apply cool water to their skin to bring body temperature down.

National Heat Awareness Day was launched by the National Weather Service and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Its main goal is to raise awareness of heat-related illnesses among the general public and especially risk groups, educate people about preventing and identifying the signs of such illnesses, and encourage the consumption of water to stay hydrated and protected from heat. The observance also aims to highlight the responsibility of employers to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat (by allowing them to acclimatize, providing frequent breaks and access to water, etc.).

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