Houston, We Have a Heat Wave. Here Are Some Survival Skills

The heat index hit triple digits for the first time this week in the Houston-area.
The heat index hit triple digits for the first time this week in the Houston-area. Photo by Faith Bugenhagen
With the heat index in the Houston area climbing into the triple digits, local healthcare professionals are warning residents adventuring outdoors to stay aware of their physical limitations.

“We have seen an increase in the number of deaths because of the extreme heat lately, which usually happens a lot in areas where people have been going outside,” Dr. Joaquin Villegas, assistant professor of family medicine at UTHealth Houston, said. “We actually have seen a lot of people — an increasing number — coming down with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well. So not just deaths, but morbidity.”

Villegas indicated that those most susceptible to rising temperatures during summer months include individuals with limited mobility, pre-existing chronic conditions, those working outdoors and those older or pregnant. Children under five can also experience a heightened reaction to the heat.

According to Dr. Mike Ren, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, this population is more likely to be dehydrated or not be as conscious about proper hydration.

Ren added that warmer weather can worsen symptoms of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Everyone is affected by the heat. It’s going to affect you and me differently than a diabetic person who’s 85 years old,” Ren said. “But everyone's still affected to some degree, and having those factors that can help mitigate the heat is important.”

Physicians advise those who can avoid going outdoors between the peak afternoon hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to remain indoors. If someone is required to be outside for work, they recommend taking breaks and maintaining constant hydration.

Villegas said the standard for water consumption is four to six cups or a liter to a liter and a half of water daily. He noted that was the baseline. If an individual is outside for prolonged periods, they should compensate for those hours.

Those exposed to the heat should wear light-colored, loose clothing to cool down. They should also wear sunscreen and a hat or carry an umbrella to protect their skin.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for include headaches, nausea and vomiting. If someone experiences confusion or weakness or goes from sweating profusely to not sweating at all, they could be in the middle of a heat stroke.

To help people experiencing heat exhaustion outside, Ren said it is best to relocate them to an area in the shade where they can lie down. Rehydrating and attempting to re-regulate the individual's core body temperature is essential.

If it is a severe situation, calling an ambulance is best. Once an individual is moved to the hospital, healthcare providers will remove excess clothing, provide fluids and use other treatments, such as an ice sponge bath, to cool the patient down.

“Just don’t push it, be smart about it,” Ren said. “It’s rarely, rarely ever worth it to push yourself.”

In preparation for the warmer summer months of July and August, the City of Houston opened 47 cooling centers where residents can escape the heat.

List of the City of Houston’s cooling centers:

Acres Homes Neighborhood Library
8501 W. Montgomery Road
Noon-8 p.m.

Acres Homes Multi-Service Center
6719 W. Montgomery
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Alief Neighborhood Center
11903 Bellaire Boulevard
8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library
7007 W. Fuqua
Noon-8 p.m.

Bracewell Neighborhood Library
9002 Kingspoint ,
Noon-8 p.m.

Carnegie Neighborhood Library
1050 Quitman
Noon-8 p.m.

Central Library
500 McKinney
9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Family History Research Center
5300 Caroline
10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Collier Regional Library
6200 Pinemont
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center
6402 Market
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

TECHLink Dixon
8002 Hirsch
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center
4014 Market
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Flores Neighborhood Library
110 N. Milby
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

African American History Research Center
1300 Victor
10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center
3810 W. Fuqua Street
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Heights Neighborhood Library
1302 Heights Boulevard
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Hillendahl Neighborhood Library
2436 Gessner
Noon-8 p.m.

Houston History Research Center
550 McKinney
10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Johnson Neighborhood Library
3517 Reed
Noon-8 p.m.

Jungman Neighborhood Library
5830 Westheimer
Noon-8 p.m.

Kashmere Multi-Service Center
4802 Lockwood
8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Kendall Neighborhood Library
609 N. Eldridge
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Looscan Neighborhood Library
2510 Willowick
Noon-8 p.m.

Magnolia Multi-Service Center
7037 Capitol
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Mancuso Neighborhood Library
6767 Bellfort
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Melcher Neighborhood Library
7200 Keller
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Metropolitan Multi-Service Center
1475 W Gray
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Montrose Neighborhood Library
4100 Montrose
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Moody Neighborhood Library
9525 Irvington
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Northeast Multi-Service Center
9720 Spaulding
8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Oak Forest Neighborhood Library
1349 W. 43rd
Noon-8 p.m.

Park Place Regional Library
8145 Park Place
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Ring Neighborhood Library
8835 Long Point Drive
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library
3223 Wilcrest
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Scenic Woods Regional Library
10677 Homestead
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Smith Neighborhood Library
3624 Scott
Noon-8 p.m.

Southwest Multi-Service Center
6400 High Star
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Stanaker Neighborhood Library
611 S/Sgt. Macario Garcia
Noon-8 p.m.

Sunnyside Health and Multi-Service Center
4410 Reed
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

McGovern-Stella Link Regional Library
7405 Stella Link
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Third Ward Multi-Service Center
3611 Ennis
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tuttle Neighborhood Library
702 Kress
Noon-8 p.m.

Vinson Neighborhood Library
3810 W. Fuqua
10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Walker Neighborhood Library
5505 Belrose
Noon-8 p.m.

Walter Neighborhood Library
7660 Clarewood
Noon-8 p.m.

West End Multi Service Center
170 Heights
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Young Neighborhood Library
5107 Griggs
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.