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Summer Heat Can Take Its Toll

UPDATED June 26, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill

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It kills more people in the United States than all other weather-related disasters combined. As a matter of fact, 170 people per year die of heat-related deaths.

The National Weather Service measures how hot it actually feels to the human body through the heat index. It`s a better indicator of how hot the temperature feels outside because it combines air temperature and dew point. Meteorologists often use the dew point temperature as an indicator of the humidity because it shows at what temperature dew or fog would form.

The table to your right (heat index table) indicates the impact of the heat index on your body. The heat index values you see when you watch or read the weather report are taken in the shade; the heat index can be up to 15 degrees warmer in direct sunlight.

When we start to feel the summer swelter, our bodies naturally perspire. The evaporation of sweat cools us down. However, sweat can`t evaporate as readily when the air is very humid.

If we don`t take the proper precautions when the heat index is very high, our body temperature can become dangerously high, and we can start to get light-headed or shiver and begin to feel dizzy. These are symptoms that accompany heat-related illnesses.

A summer`s day can feel pleasant or muggy depending on what the dew point temperature reads. As an example, if the actual air temperature is 85 degrees and the dew point temperature is 55 degrees, the relative humidity will be 36 percent. In comparison, if the air temperature is 85 and the dew point 65 degrees, the relative humidity will be 51 percent and you will feel more uncomfortable.

The best advice to follow in the "Dog Days" of summer is to drink plenty of water to keep your body fully hydrated, limit outdoor activity during the hottest time of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and wear loose-fitting, light colored clothing that helps reflect the heat away from your body.

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Source and Story Image: National Weather Service

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