During long heat waves heat stress, and heat-related injuries and deaths can often be prevented. Look below to find helpful information on staying cool and safe, and more tips on saving energy and money when temperatures rise.
Heat Index Chart
Your body provides warning signals of heat stress. Signs of heat exhaustion, is a serious medical condition, include:
- profuse sweating, tiredness
- fainting, nausea or vomiting
- paleness, headache
- fast, shallow breath, dizziness
- muscle cramps, weakness
- a weak, rapid pulse
If left unchecked, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body cooling system fails. At this point, sweating stops and the body temperature quickly rises to over 106 degrees, Fahrenheit. Heat stroke is a very serious, life-threatening condition. Symptoms to watch for are:
- very high body temperature (over 105 degrees Fahrenheit.)
- rapid pulse
- red, dry skin
- muscle cramps, weakness
- throbbing headache
- throbbing headache
Prolonged heat stress can be fatal to anyone. However, it poses the greatest risk to people over age 60, especially those who are frail or have medical conditions like heart disease, respiratory problems, or diabetes.
- Babies and young children are also vulnerable to heat stress. It is always dangerous to leave a child unattended in a car or enclosure, but this is even more risky during a heat wave. Children who communicate or display any symptoms of heat stress require immediate attention.
- There are other people who run a higher than average risk of suffering from heat stress. For example, athletes, military personnel, manual laborers, farm workers, diabetics and people who are obese may become sick from overexertion.
- Alcoholics and others who abuse substances are another higher risk group. Finally, anyone who is not used to high temperatures and humidity may become ill during prolonged heat waves.
- Pets can also suffer from heat stress. Give them plenty of clean water. Outdoor pets need a shady, cool place to get out of the hot sun. Indoors, if an air conditioner is not running, be sure that pets have enough fresh air circulating to keep them cool. For other tips on pet care during heat waves, contact your local Humane Society.
Help those who need special assistance – for example, young children, people with certain disabilities, or the very elderly. In extreme heat, here are some good common sense tips to remember:
- Drink two, to five times more than the usual amount of water. (This may be supplemented with non-sugar, non-caffeine, non-alcoholic beverages.)
- Use SPF-15 or higher.
- Limit physical activity. If exertion is required, take frequent breaks. Also, heed warning signs such as a pounding heart or shortness of breath, and stop to rest in a cool place.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing, and a hat that protects your face from the sun.
- Try to stay in air conditioned places. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go to a public place with one. Fans and evaporative coolers may also help with cooling.
- Adopt a co-worker as a buddy if you work in a high heat environment.
- Choose cooler, early morning or evening hours for outdoor activities.
- Listen to weather forecasts and cut back on unnecessary exertion on hot, humid days.
- Check in twice a day with friends or loved ones who are over 65 or at high risk for heat stress because of other factors.
When a person shows signs of heat exhaustion, help them to cool off gradually. Give them non-alcoholic, low sugar, caffeine-free beverages to avoid dehydration. Other "cool down" treatments include resting in an air conditioned place, wearing less clothing, and taking a cool shower.
- Heat stroke is a serious illness that requires immediate emergency medical attention. First, call "911." Then use any means available to start the cool-down process..
- For example, move the person to a shady area, loosen clothing, and fan vigorously. If a garden hose is available, immerse the person in water. Keep cooling efforts going until emergency responders arrive.
- The goal is to bring the person’s body temperature down to 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember, however, the need for medical help is urgent, because heat stroke can be fatal.
If you have central air conditioning, set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher in the summer and turn off your cooling system when you’re away from home. If you are elderly, please check with your doctor for recommended indoor temperatures.
- Where practical, use electric fans throughout your home instead of air conditioning. Fans use far less electricity than air conditioners.
- Avoid using evaporative coolers or humidifiers at the same time an air conditioner is operating.
- Clean or replace your air conditioner’s filter regularly to help it run more efficiently.
- Apply weather-stripping and caulking around doors and windows to prevent the loss of cooled air.
- Repair and seal cooling ducts. Leaky ducts account for about 40% of cooling losses.
- Cllose drapes and blinds to keep out direct sunlight during hot periods.
- Open your windows during cool evenings.