Public Health Preparedness
What to do during a Heat Wave
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or television stations for up-to-date information.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach more than 140 within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill in minutes. Even on days that feel pleasantly warm outside, temperatures in a closed vehicle can raise high enough to kill children and pets.
- Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities. High-risk individuals should stay in cool places. Get plenty of rest to allow your natural "cooling system" to work. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the early morning. Many heat emergencies are experienced by people exercising or working during the hottest parts of the day.
- Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors. Frequent breaks, especially in a cool area, can help people tolerate heat better.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Partners can keep an eye on each other and can assist each other when needed. Sometimes exposure to heat can cloud judgment, and, if you work alone, you may not notice this.
- Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
- Avoid too much sunshine. Sunburn slows the skins ability to cool itself. The sun will also heat the inner core of your body, resulting in dehydration. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high sun-protection factor (SPF) rating.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities. Excessive heat can threaten the health of athletes, staff, and spectators of outdoor games and activities.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cold or even a cool shower taken immediately after coming indoors from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and very young people.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Even in the warmest weather, staying indoors, out of sunshine, is safer than long periods of exposure to the sun.
- Keep heat outside and cool air inside. Close any registers that may allow heat inside. Install temporary reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, in windows and skylights to reflect heat back outside.
- Conserve electricity not needed to keep you cool. During periods of excessive heat, people tend to use a lot more power for air conditioning. Conserve electricity not used to keep you cool so power can remain available and reduce the chance of a community-wide outage.
- Vacuum air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use. Air conditioner filters can become clogged or filled with dirt, making them less efficient. Keeping them clean will allow your air conditioner to provide more cool air.
- If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Air conditioned locations are the safest places during excessive heat because electric fans do not cool the air. Fans do help sweat evaporate, which gives a cooling effect. However, when temperatures exceed 90 degrees, fans become ineffective in reducing heat-related illness.
- Dress appropriately:
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing that will cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and the over-warming effects of sunlight on your body.
Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. A hat will keep direct sunlight off your head and face. Sunlight can burn and warm the inner core of your body.
- Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Drink regularly and often. Your body needs water to keep cool. Water is the safest liquid to drink durig heat emergencies. Injury and death can occur from dehydration, which can happen quickly and be unnoticed until too late. Symptoms of dehydration are often confused with symptoms of other conditions.
- People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; who are on fluid-restricted diets; or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing fluid intake.
- Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good for a little while, but they make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Large, heavy meals are more difficult to digest and cause your body to increase internal heat to aid digestion, worsening overall conditions. Avoid foods that are high in protein, such as meats and nuts, which increase metabolic heat.
- Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. Salt causes the body to retain fluids, resulting in swelling. Salt impedes sweating, which helps keep you cool.
- Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering stress from the heat. Make sure they are indoors or in the shade. Use fans to cool areas that are not air conditioned or open to breezes. Provide plenty of water for drinking as well as for cooling the animals. If you see signs of heat stress, call your veterinarian. Very young and older animals, as well as animals with short snouts, are more susceptible to problems with heat.
Learn more about:
How to protect yourself from heat-related illness
How to recognize and treat heat exhaustion and heatstroke
What to do during a heat wave
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