National Heat Awareness Day is observed annually on the last Friday of May, which falls on May 27 this year. National Heat Awareness Day is an effort by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Weather Service to alert workers, employers, and the public at large about the (preventable) health dangers related to heat, in order to reduce the overall rate of illnesses and deaths caused by it. This day was specially founded as a reminder that many outdoor workers or laborers are at risk of serious heat-induced conditions like heat exhaustion, dehydration, heatstroke, and even death. We bring you tips on how spreading awareness about these conditions and their prevention can help mitigate such unnecessary medical emergencies.
History of National Heat Awareness Day
National Heat Awareness Day was founded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Weather Service, an agency of the U.S. Federal Government. While there is no record of its first observance, the importance of this day and what it stands for is why we are including it.
The reality is that every year, in the U.S. alone, people suffer and die from heat-induced illnesses, which could easily have been prevented with the right protective measures and intervention. Groups that are especially vulnerable to heat are outdoor workers (like farmers and manual laborers), young children, elderly adults, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women. Heatwaves have been on the rise over the past few decades, with a definite correlation to climate change and the crisis of global warming. In the U.S. itself, recent history shows the shocking death toll due to heatwaves. While various measures are being taken to adapt to rising temperatures and humidity, there is a need for awareness to be spread in order to mitigate the losses.
Therefore, this day was created in order to spread awareness to overcome the high-temperature-related issues. This day is also observed to encourage the consumption of water to avoid heat-related illness. Americans seem to still underestimate the health risks related to conditions of extreme heat or temperatures, even though it’s the deadliest weather condition in the country. With factors like pollution causing temperatures to rise earlier each year, the onslaught of the heat of summer is coming faster every year. For this reason, it is imperative that the nation at large begins to sit up and take notice of the fact that there are many groups in need of protection from an unexpected killer.
National Heat Awareness Day timeline
The term heatwave originates in America.
A heatwave kills 1,250 in the U.S.
A heatwave in Chicago kills 700 people.
A heatwave across Europe becomes responsible for over 50,000 deaths.
National Heat Awareness Day FAQs
What are three signs of heatstroke?
Symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke include fatigue/weakness, headaches, and confusion or dizziness. However, in the case of heat exhaustion, your heartbeat slows down, muscles can cramp and there is excessive sweating accompanied by intense thirst. In the case of heatstroke, your heartbeat quickens, you can experience shortness of breath and your skin feels hot, with decreased sweating and urination. In both cases, the person affected should be moved to a cool, shaded location, given sips of water to drink and their skin needs to be cooled with water or ice (until medical help arrives).
Why is heatwave dangerous?
“Heatwaves can kill via the dehydration caused by heavy sweating; the altered sodium and potassium concentrations in the blood confuse both heart and nerve cells, and so breathing or heartbeat may suddenly stop,” according to DownToEarth.
What is the highest heatwave ever recorded?
The National Weather Service recorded a temperature of 130℉ in Death Valley National Park, California, in 2020. This could be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth!
How to Observe National Heat Awareness Day
Chug, chug, chug that H2O
Dehydration is one of the most preventable things, which, if left ignored, can lead to more serious health issues. Therefore it is recommended by experts everywhere that eight glasses of water a day is a good standard to maintain. Not only does your body stay hydrated, but water also helps flush toxins out of the body.
Commit to protecting the vulnerable
There are many online campaigns and grassroots petitions being signed to support the need for outdoor workers to have adequate laws to protect them from heat and other work- environment-related health hazards. Read up and get involved, because every voice does matter!
Get the word out
With powerful tools like social media at our disposal, we can rally our communities (both virtual and real) to spread awareness about the very real risks of heat-related medical conditions that could affect anyone at any time. Train yourself and someone you know to recognize the signs and take action — a little bit can go a long way.
5 Tips On Beating The Heat This Summer
The manifold benefits of drinking enough water and fluids cannot be stressed enough.
Keep your fashion light and breezy
Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing, made with breathable fabrics like cotton.
Slather on sunscreen
The importance of sunscreen as protection against the sun is never going to get old.
Avoid going outdoors in peak times
Avoid stepping out into the sun during its peak hours, especially without protection.
Limit your activity
Leave the intense workouts for early mornings or nights, and take it easy during the midday heat.
Why National Heat Awareness Day Is Important
Lobbies to protect the vulnerable
Several years ago, OSHA began a Heat Illness Prevention Campaign to spread awareness about the dangers of working in conditions of extreme heat. Their petition for change could be boiled down to three simple demands for workers — shade, rest, and water. The onus falls on employers to ensure that their workers are receiving these basic requirements and are being protected from extreme heat and other hazardous conditions.
It educates us on prevention methods
By reinforcing such basic preventative measures, National Heat Awareness Day brings the reality of things we take for granted (like water) to the forefront and makes us more mindful of our own health.
It resonates with people everywhere
Heatwaves and heat-related health issues are on the rise all over the world, thanks to climate change. Therefore the message of National Heat Awareness Day is relevant to people across the globe, especially as many nations do not even have access to resources like drinking water and electricity. It opens one’s eyes to the larger realities of social injustice and climate change.
National Heat Awareness Day dates