Extreme temperatures can cause serious, potentially fatal health problems. People can help prevent heat-related illness by keeping cool and drinking plenty of liquids. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat causes more weather-related deaths in the U.S. than all other forms of severe weather combined.
Steps you can take
- Drink more fluids than usual—but avoid fluids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
- Stay indoors— in an air-conditioned location, if possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, spending a few hours a day in an air-conditioned public place like a public library or shopping mall will help your body cope with the heat.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Never leave people—or animals—in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Check regularly on people who may be at higher risk of heat-related illness—infants and young children, people over age 65, people who are disabled or with mental illness, and people with chronic health problems like heart disease or high blood pressure.
- If you must spend time outdoors, try to limit your activity to morning and evening. Take rest breaks in shady areas.
- Limit physical exercise. Again, when you do exercise, be sure to take in plenty of fluids.
- When you're outdoors, wear hats and use sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion
Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include decreased energy, slight loss of appetite, faintness, light-headedness and nausea. People with these symptoms should seek a cool place, drink fluids, remove excess clothing and rest. Heat stress needs attention, but is usually not a medical emergency.
Know the signs of heat stroke
Serious signs that indicate a medical emergency and require immediate medical attention include unconsciousness, rapid heartbeat, throbbing headache, dry skin, chest pain, mental confusion, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, staggering and difficulty breathing. If you need medical assistance, dial 911 and move the heat-stressed person to a cool area and remove his or her excess clothing, spray the individual with water and fan the person until help arrives.