Heat illnesses
Hot time in the old town : the great heat wave of 1896 and the making of Theodore Roosevelt
Edward P. Kohn.
New York, NY : Basic Books, c2010.
Kohn (American history, Bilkent U., Turkey) reconstructs a largely forgotten moment in the history of New York City and American politics, the great 1896 heat wave that killed some 1500 people. His narrative centers on two key individuals following different trajectories in their political fortunes: William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential candidate whose lack of support at a campaign stop at Madison Square Garden, perhaps due to the overwhelming heat, helped derail his campaign; and the young police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, who is portrayed as one of the few city officials to adequately respond to the dangers posed to the working poor by the heat wave. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Burning city
Ariel & Joaqun Dorfman.
New York : Random House, [2005]
It is the simmering summer of 2001 in New York City. Heller is the youngest employee of Soft Tidings, a messenger service whose motto is news with a personal touch. At Soft Tidings, a message is not handed over but told to the recipient. And the messages, as a rule, are not especially good news. Heller prefers his bike to the mandatory Rollerblades, and he gets away with his maniacal bike riding because he is, hands down, the best deliverer of bad news. This summer will be memorable for Heller as he finds himself drawn into the lives of a wildly diverse cast of characters, accidentally falling in love, and relating to people in a whole new way. From the Hardcover edition.
Heat wave : a social autopsy of disaster in Chicago
Eric Klinenberg.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2002.
On Thursday, July 13, 1995, Chicagoans awoke to a blistering day in which the temperature would reach 106 degrees. The heat index, which measures how the temperature actually feels on the body, would hit 126 degrees by the time the day was over. Meteorologists had been warning residents about a two-day heat wave, but these temperatures did not end that soon. When the heat wave broke a week later, city streets had buckled; the records for electrical use were shattered; and power grids had failed, leaving residents without electricity for up to two days. And by July 20, over seven hundred people had perished-more than twice the number that died in the Chicago Fire of 1871, twenty times the number of those struck by Hurricane Andrew in 1992--in the great Chicago heat wave, one of the deadliest in American history. Heat waves in the United States kill more people during a typical year than all other natural disasters combined. Until now, no one could explain either the overwhelming number or the heartbreaking manner of the deaths resulting from the 1995 Chicago heat wave. Meteorologists and medical scientists have been unable to account for the scale of the trauma, and political officials have puzzled over the sources of the city's vulnerability. In Heat Wave, Eric Klinenberg takes us inside the anatomy of the metropolis to conduct what he calls a "social autopsy," examining the social, political, and institutional organs of the city that made this urban disaster so much worse than it ought to have been. Starting with the question of why so many people died at home alone, Klinenberg investigates why some neighborhoods experienced greater mortality than others, how the city government responded to the crisis, and how journalists, scientists, and public officials reported on and explained these events. Through a combination of years of fieldwork, extensive interviews, and archival research, Klinenberg uncovers how a number of surprising and unsettling forms of social breakdown-including the literal and social isolation of seniors, the institutional abandonment of poor neighborhoods, and the retrenchment of public assistance programs-contributed to the high fatality rates. The human catastrophe, he argues, cannot simply be blamed on the failures of any particular individuals or organizations. For when hundreds of people die behind locked doors and sealed windows, out of contact with friends, family, community groups, and public agencies, everyone is implicated in their demise. As Klinenberg demonstrates in this incisive and gripping account of the contemporary urban condition, the widening cracks in the social foundations of American cities that the 1995 Chicago heat wave made visible have by no means subsided as the temperatures returned to normal. The forces that affected Chicago so disastrously remain in play in America's cities, and we ignore them at our peril.

Your body cools itself by sweating. During hot weather sometimes sweating isn't enough. Your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken.

Some heat related illnesses include:

  • Heat stroke - the most serious illness, body temperature is above 105F, people may become confused, pass out or have seizures.
  • Heat exhaustion - symptoms are headache, feeling dizzy, being thirsty or nausea.
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains that happen during heavy exercise.
  • Heat rash - also known as Prickly Heat, caused by sweating in areas of skin creases like the neck, armpit, or back of knees, that don't allowed the sweat to evaporate.

The risk of heat related illnesses could be reduced by taking precautions to avoid overheating and dehydration.


Wear light, loose-fitting clothing that will allow perspiration to evaporate and cool the body.

Strenuous exercise should be avoided in hot weather. If you must be outside, stay in the shade.

Usually a heat wave will be declared when there is more than two days of temperatures reaching 90F or higher with at least 80 percent humidity.

Heat info

Stay indoors. Take advantage of your city's designated cooling centers likely found in air-conditioned public facilities like a school building or community center. Head down to your basement where it's a few degrees cooler.

Stay hydrated by replacing fluids lost from sweating. The best liquid to drink is water, so drink plenty of it!

Do not leave children and pets in the car. The temperature inside your car can reach 200F. Leave pets at home with a full water bowl.

Recognizing the symptoms and knowing the precautions of heat related illnesses could save your, or a friends, life.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff