Jun 15, 2023 - Climate

Austin heat grows dangerous

Illustration of the hot emoji as a sun.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Dangerous heat has set in this week in Austin.

Driving the news: Despite hopes that May rains would tamp down temperatures, Thursday's high is currently projected to reach 102°, with heat indices (or "feels like" temperatures, when factoring in humidity) as high as 112°.

  • High temperatures will hover above 100° at least through the weekend, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

Why it matters: Prolonged heat exposure can cause emergency health situations.

Zoom out: 2022 was Austin's second-hottest summer on record.

  • At least 279 people in Texas were killed by heat last year, per a Texas Tribune analysis — a large portion of those deaths were likely migrants who died after crossing the border.

What they're saying: "Heat illness tends to happen when the body is unable to regulate its temperature due to overexertion or extended periods of time in high temperatures," Maria Carmenza Mejia, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a statement. "Conditions can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening."

  • "Stay hydrated, seek shade and look out for signs of heat-related illness," Austin emergency management director Ken Snipes said in a press release.

What happens: Heat cramps and spasms are the first to set in due to dehydration or an imbalance of electrolytes.

  • These early, mild symptoms can lead to heat exhaustion, where heat syncope can set in, causing fainting or dizziness.
  • If untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, where the body struggles to regulate temperature on its own and is stuck above 104°. If this happens, immediate action is required.

What to do: Once heat cramps set in, move to a shaded or air-conditioned area and start hydrating, gently fanning yourself until the conditions subside.

  • If heat exhaustion is suspected, do the same — but watch out for signs of heat stroke, which include seizures, loss of consciousness and being unable to keep fluids down.
  • If heat stroke is suspected, Mejia advises to call 911.

Pro tip: Avoid walking outside in the first place, especially between 10am and 7pm.

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