Save a life: Check on your loved ones and neighbors during this heatwave!
Extreme summer heat is threatening Houston area residents more than ever this year. Low-income families living in aging homes with inefficient temperature control and poor air quality are most at risk for health and safety challenges.
Across the country, severe heat, which can strain the heart, lungs, and kidneys, is a leading weather-related cause of death. In Texas last year, at least 306 people died of heat-related causes, according to the state health department — the highest annual total in more than two decades.
Check in on loved ones and know the signs of heat stress and exhaustion.
Dr. Michael Sullivan, program director of the Graduate Nursing Program and associate professor of nursing in the Peavy School of Nursing at the University of St. Thomas-Houston, asks people to, “Be sure to check on your loved ones and neighbors and know the signs of heat stress and exhaustion. Make sure to get them the help they need if they do not have access to protective measures. Also, take note of any signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
“When checking on your loved ones and neighbors, it is important to note what to look for. According to the CDC, ask yourself these questions: Are they drinking enough water? Do they have access to air conditioning? Do they know how to keep cool? Do they show any signs of heat stress? Make sure to get neighbors the help they need if they do not have access to protective measures. Also, take note of any signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.”
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, excessive sweating, cool or moist skin, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, and a fast and weak pulse. People experiencing these symptoms should lower their body temperature by getting to a cooler place, drinking water, taking a cool shower or bath, and resting.
A throbbing headache, red, hot, and dry skin (no longer sweating), extremely high body temperature (above 103°), nausea or vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness and a rapid, strong pulse are signs of heat stroke. If these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately and try to lower the person’s body temperature until help arrives.
Upward Trends: Deaths and Heat-Related Emergency Room Visits
Sullivan notes that Americans will spend an extra $1 billion on healthcare each summer due to extreme heat. According to the Associated Press, this year at least 12 people have died in Texas from heat-related illness. Ten deaths due to heat illness were reported in Webb County, one in Galveston County and one death in Harris County within the past two weeks as the Southern U.S. grapples with a weeks-long heat wave and triple-digit temperatures.
Emergency Room visits in Houston between June 18 and June 24 spiked compared to the same time last year as the state battles an early onset of extreme heat, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The region averaged 837 heat-related visits per 100,000 ER visits compared to 639 visits per 100,000 emergency department visits during the same period in 2022, CDC data shows.
Dr. Sullivan Suggests Health Related Precautions
The National Weather Service predicts heat index values will reach as high as 109 through Sunday. The Houston Health Department recommends the precautions below to avoid heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Increase water consumption. Drink lots of liquids even before getting thirsty, but avoid beverages with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar because these can result in the loss of body fluid.
- Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when temperatures are not as high. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of water or electrolyte replacement beverages and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility. People unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration.
- Do not leave infants, children, senior citizens, or pets unattended in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are cracked open. Check to make sure everyone is out of the car and do not overlook children who may have fallen asleep.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to help prevent sunburn as well as heat-related illness. Apply sunscreen, which protects from the sun’s harmful rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
- Seek accommodations in air-conditioned facilities during the heat of the day if the house is not air-conditioned: a relative’s home, multi-service centers, malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc.
- Take frequent cool baths or showers if your home is not air-conditioned.
Available Houston Resources
Many Houston local agencies and groups can provide air conditioners, offer subsidies for at-home cooling appliances, or can direct and transport people to cooling centers.
- People may seek air-conditioning in city multi-service centers and libraries during normal business hours.
- Houston libraries and multi-service centers will function as cooling centers during normal business hours. Library location and hours are available at www.HoustonLibrary.org
- Community centers operated by Houston Parks and Recreation Department will open to the public after the conclusion of daily programming for enrolled participants.
- Anyone without air-conditioning can seek shelter at any of the following city buildings designated as cooling centers during this heatwave.
- The YMCA of Greater Houston will also provide a resource for people needing to seek relief.
- People without adequate transportation to a designated cooling center can call 3-1-1 to request a free ride from METRO or zTrip. Transportation is only to and from the cooling centers; transportation to other locations is unavailable.
- ·Gymnasiums are open Monday through Friday 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and non-gymnasiums from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- The Red Cross heat wave preparedness site
- The Red Cross heat wave preparedness site, Spanish language
- Houston Fire Department heat page safety
- The Center for Disease Control tips for staying cool
- NOAA's National Weather Service heat danger chart
If you are aware of someone in need of assistance to repair or replace appliances, contact BakerRipley. For those who financially qualify, BakerRipley will repair or replace the appliance at no cost. This includes A/C, refrigerator, oven, heating/cooling elements, etc. In addition, BakerRipley offers weatherization regardless of whether one owns or rents a home. They will caulk windows, replace weather stripping, provide insulation and offer utility assistance. https://bakerripley.org.
If someone you are aware of is experiencing difficulties staying cool in the extreme heat or is at risk of heat-related illness, contact Catholic Charities at 713-526-4611 to request assistance. https://catholiccharities.org/heat/
Catholic Charities is distributing food at their regional food pantries in Houston, Fort Bend and Galveston.
Guadalupe Center Market – Houston
Call 713-874-6781 on Mondays & Fridays to make appointments
Mamie George Community Center – Richmond
Register by texting HFBPS to 855-788-3663, then select Catholic Charities — Richmond.
Beacon of Hope Isle Market – Galveston
Call 409-762-2064. Appointments are required.
Utility Assistance Resources
- BakerRipley Utility Assistance Program
- Harris County Emergency Utility Assistance
- Gulf Coast Community Services
- Chinese Community Service Center: 713-271-6100
- Acres Homes Multi-Service Center
- Alief Neighborhood Center
- Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center
- Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center
- Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center
- Kashmere Multi-Service Center
- Magnolia Multi-Service Center
- Northeast Multi-Service Center
- Southwest Multi-Service Center
- Sunnyside Health and Multi-Service Center
- Third Ward Multi-Service Center
- West End Multi-Service Center
Directions and Transportation
In conclusion, Dr. Sullivan says, “The choices of action are varied. The only choice that is clearly wrong is to do nothing.”