Extreme Heat

87° is Hot

More than just hot. 87°F is the point at which we start to see serious health effects of heat in Vermont.

Learn more about Why 87°

It's Hot Outside! Stay cool. Stay hydrated. Stay informed. Extreme heat can lead to life-threatening emergencies.

Know how to recognize risk factors and respond to warning signs, and learn what precautions to take when it's hot.

If you have a medical emergency call 9-1-1

Dangers of Extreme Heat

Heat Can Lead to Serious Illness

Heat illnesses can be deadly. In extreme heat situations, sometimes your body's temperature control systems can't keep up. When that happens, your body temperature gets dangerously high. As a result, you are at greater risk of serious heat illness, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and sunburn.

Heat Worsens Chronic Health Conditions

Heat usually kills by worsening existing chronic health conditions. For the many Vermonters over the age of 65 who have a chronic condition — such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes — temperatures over 87°F put them at a high risk of life-threatening illness. People who feel unwell or faint due to extreme heat are also vulnerable to serious or deadly falls.

People with chronic conditions may not show classical signs of heat illness but rather worsened symptoms of their condition. If you or someone you know has a potentially dangerous chronic condition and begins to feel ill during a hot day, pay very close attention. If you have concerns about a person's condition, seek immediate medical attention.

Anyone Can be Affected by Heat Illnesses

Heat illnesses are a real danger, even here in our northern climate. Vermonters go to the emergency department for heat illnesses just as often as people in Maryland.

Being young does not protect you from heat illness. In fact, both people over the age of 85 and those of high-school age are at double the risk of going to the emergency department for a heat-related reason than the average Vermonter.

Learn more about the Types of Heat Illnesses and what you can do.

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How to Protect Yourself

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Heat Illnesses

If you have concerns about your or someone else's health, dial 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.

Warning signs

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

What to do

Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.  If you see any of these signs, call for immediate medical assistance. 

While waiting for help to arrive:

Sometimes heat stroke can cause muscles to begin to twitch uncontrollably. If this happens, keep the person from injuring themselves, but do not place any object in their mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the person on his or her side.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body's response to losing too much water and salt contained in sweat. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.

Warning signs

The skin may be cool and moist. The person's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow.

What to do

Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour. 

Try to cool the person down with:

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people during or after heavy exercise, because the body loses too much salt and moisture through sweating. Heat cramps can also be a sign of heat exhaustion.

Warning signs

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. 

What to do

If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps. Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not stop in 1 hour. Otherwise do the following:

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.

Warning signs

Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It often appears on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. 

What to do

Treating heat rash usually does not require medical assistance.

Sunburn

Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and heals in about a week, more severe sunburn may require medical attention. 

Warning signs

Skin does not have to feel hot to get burned. Symptoms of sunburn include the skin becoming red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure. See a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age, or if these symptoms are present:

What to do

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Why 87°F?

Vermont data indicates that people with certain physical or mental conditions are at greater risk of serious illness, or even death, on days where the temperature exceeded 87°F.

Data from a comparison of death records and temperature records from 1999 to 2012, indicate that the daily number of deaths among people over the age of 65 was about 8% higher on hot days (days when temperatures exceeded 87°F).  The causes of death that were over-represented on hot days covered a broad range. Cardiovascular causes of death accounted for 42% of the extra deaths. Neurological conditions, especially Alzheimer’s diseases accounted for 19%. Furthermore, about 6% of the extra deaths resulted from falls.

Heat-related emergency department visits also went up during occurrences of extreme heat. Eight times as many such visits occurred on days over 87°F.

Click to see larger chart of incidence of heat-related emergency room visits per summer (2004-2013)Younger people, who are usually considered more resistant to extreme heat, were accounting for many of these visits. 40% of cases were between the age of 15 and 34. High schoolers and those over the age of 85 were both twice as likely to visit an emergency department because of heat as the average Vermonter.

It may be that people living in warmer places have adapted to better tolerate higher and more extreme temperatures — their bodies are used to more heat, and they have adapted their buildings and lifestyles to hotter weather. In Vermont, 87°F is an important threshold. Know the dangers, and take precautions to stay cool and safe.

More Resources and Information

Extreme Heat Information

Vermont Environmental Public Health Tracking

Weather Emergencies

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