Periods of extreme heat can create a risk to health and safety. When temperatures rise, it’s important to take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat-related illness can occur in anyone, including young and healthy people. Elderly people, babies and young children, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at higher risk of developing heat-related illness. Be sure to check on friends, family members and neighbors who may be at increased risk during periods of extreme heat.
Here are tips for preventing heat-related illness:
- Avoid or limit physical activity outdoors.
- Drink more water and other nonalcoholic fluids, regardless of your activity level.
- Limit intake of drinks with caffeine, alcohol or lots of sugar.
- Stay indoors, in an air-conditioned location, as much as possible.
- Never leave a person, especially a young child or elderly person, or a pet in a parked vehicle. Temperatures can rise rapidly in parked vehicles, even with the windows rolled down.
- Fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Cool off in the shower or bath or move to an air-conditioned place, like a public library or shopping mall.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
If you need to be outside, take these precautions:
- Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours when temperatures are cooler.
- Drink two to four glasses of nonalcoholic fluids each hour.
- Check on coworkers while working outdoors.
- Rest often in shady areas.
- Wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, occur when the body cannot properly cool itself. Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. But during periods of extreme heat, sweating may not be enough. In these cases, the body temperature rises faster than the body can cool itself down.
Knowing the signs of heat illness is important. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Heat exhaustion is a less-severe type of heat-related illness but may require medical treatment if symptoms persist.
Warning signs of heat stroke include:
- body temperature above 103 degrees
- red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
- rapid pulse
- throbbing headache
If someone is experiencing signs of heat stroke, call 911. Place the person in distress in a bath or cool shower or spray the person with cool water from a garden hose while waiting for medical help to arrive. Do not give the person fluids to drink.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion are:
- heavy sweating
People experiencing heat exhaustion should cool the body by drinking nonalcoholic, cool beverages, moving to an air-conditioned place, taking a cool (not cold) bath or shower, and wearing lightweight clothing. People experiencing heat exhaustion should seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last more than an hour.