Heat kills by taxing the human body beyond its abilities. In a normal year, about 175 Americans succumb to the demands of summer heat. In the 40-year period from 1936 through 1975, nearly 20,000 people were killed in the United States by the affects of heat and solar radiation. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died.
Cities pose special hazards. Stagnant atmospheric conditions of the heat wave trap pollutants in urban areas and add the stresses of severe pollution to the already dangerous conditions of hot weather. Air conditioning can provide relief, but due to rising energy costs many individuals and families turn off units putting themselves at risk for heat related illnesses.
How Heat Affects The Body
Heat disorders generally have to do with a reduction or collapse of the body's ability to shed heat by circulatory changes and sweating, or a chemical (salt) imbalance caused by too much sweating. When heat gain exceeds the level the body can remove, or when the body cannot compensate for fluids and salt lost through perspiration, the temperature of the body's inner core begins to rise and heat-related illnesses may develop.