KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Explaining the heat index and related illnesses

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Over the last few weeks, you may have heard the Storm Track 3 Weather Team mention the Heat Index or what the temperature “feels like.” When the relative humidity is combined with the air temperature, you get the Heat Index.

When we sweat, evaporation or a cooling process occurs. This helps reduce our body temperature. However, if there is a high moisture level in the atmosphere or relative humidity, our sweat will not evaporate as fast. The result is that our body cannot regulate our temperature. This makes the air feel warmer when it is humid.

A range of heat indices will affect the body in different ways depending on how hot it feels. Heat indices between 80° and 90° mean fatigue is possible. Conditions quickly turn serious when heat indices are between 90° and 103°. Heat exhaustion and heat cramps are possible. Heatstroke, the most severe form of heat illness, is possible when heat indices are from 103° to 124°. The heat index recently ranged from 109° to 111° in isolated spots around Kansas. A heat index higher than 125° is extremely dangerous to be out in for a long period of time.

While heat exhaustion and heat stroke may sound similar, they are two different illnesses that need to be treated differently. Signs of heat exhaustion include a fast, weak pulse, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, and cold, pale, clammy skin. If you suspect that someone is experiencing heat exhaustion, quickly get them to a cool place and have them sip water. Loosen clothing to allow a cool down.

Signs of heatstroke are more serious. Watch for confusion, a high body temperature, passing out, and hot, red, dry, or damp skin.

If you suspect that a person is suffering from heatstroke, call 911! Get them to a cool place and apply cool clothes. Do not give them any fluids! You must act quickly because heatstroke can kill or damage the brain and other organs.

-Meteorologist Ronelle Williams

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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