Hot weather increases the risk of heat-related illnesses. Some individuals, such as young children and older adults, are at an increased risk for heat-related illnesses. Preparing for high heat is important for staying safe regardless of age.
Tips for Preventing Heat-related Illness
When the weather is hot, it is important to follow safe practices to prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Go to an air-conditioned place: If your home is air-conditioned, set it to a cool temperature. If your home is not air-conditioned, try to spend the hottest hours of the day in a cool public place such as a store or movie theater.
- Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device: When it is hotter than 90 degrees, fans will create airflow and a false sense of comfort, but they do not reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses. If possible, invest in an air-conditioning unit.
- Limit time outside: If you work or spend time outside, do this in the early morning or evening if you can to avoid the hottest part of the day. Cut down on your exercise in the heat and rest often. If you must be outside, take frequent breaks. The CDC has more resources for people who work in the heat.
- Seek shade: When outside, try to keep to shaded areas.
- Take cool baths or showers.
- Decrease usage of appliances/tools that increase indoor temperatures: This includes kitchen appliances such as the stove, oven or dishwasher.
- Cover windows: Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing and accessories: Dress for the heat by wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Use accessories such as a hat or sun umbrella to help create shade as you walk. When wearing a face mask, take into consideration color and weight of the mask; dark-colored and heavier masks may increase your risk of heat-related illness.
- Drink more fluids: Drink plenty of water. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink. As your body sweats, you need to drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated. Make sure to replace salt and minerals; heavy sweating depletes these. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade may be consumed to replace lost salts and minerals.
- Drink less alcohol, caffeinated or sugary drinks: Avoid drinks that have alcohol, caffeine or high sugar content. These beverages will only make you more dehydrated as your body sweats.
- Check for signs of illness: Monitor yourself as well as young children and older adults in your household/care for signs of heat-related illness. People may be at greater risk for heat-related illness if they are:
- Infants or young children.
- 65 years of age or older.
- Overexerting during work or exercise.
- Physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
- Taking certain medications, especially for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.
- Keep updated on Weather and air quality alerts: When planning things outside, check weather and air quality reports. You can stay up-to-date on local weather conditions and temperature forecasts by following the National Weather Service.
- Check on your neighbors: Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications.
- Eat light, cool meals
- Freeze water: Freeze water in case your power goes out. Frozen water bottles or icepacks can help cool you down in emergency situations.
- Sunscreen: Wear sunscreen when outside to decrease risk of sunburn and other heat-related illnesses. Follow sunscreen recommendations for re-application.
- Do not keep children or pets in cars: Even if air temperatures are not hot, temperatures inside a car - even with windows cracked - can quickly get above 100 degrees. Kids and pets can become seriously ill or even die very quickly in these conditions.
Heat-related illnesses are illnesses that occur when the body overheats, usually in response to prolonged, hot, humid weather. There are three main heat-related illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Heat Cramps: Painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy physical activity in hot environments. Heat cramps most often in the legs and abdomen, but may also occur in the arms and back. Heat cramps may be a sign of heat exhaustion.
- Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; headache; fainting.
- Heat Stroke: This is a serious and life-threatening emergency. Symptoms include a body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; hot, red, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; loss of consciousness.
If you are experiencing heat cramps or heat exhaustion, you may need medical attention. If you’re experiencing heat stroke, you must get help right away. Delay may be fatal.
To learn more, visit the CDC's Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-related Illnesses page.
When to Seek Help and What to Do If You’re in Trouble
If you think someone may be experiencing heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Do not delay. Their life is in danger. After you have called 911, move the person to a cooler place, preferably with air conditioning. Use cool, wet cloths to cool them down, or place them in a cool bath. Do not give them anything to drink.
You may need to seek medical attention if you or someone else is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat cramps too.
Seek medical attention for heat exhaustion if:
- You vomit.
- Your symptoms get worse.
- Your symptoms last longer than one hour.
If you or someone else is showing signs of heat exhaustion, move to a cooler place, preferably with air conditioning. Loosen clothes and use cool, wet cloths to cool down, or sit in a cool bath. Sip water. Heavy sweating can eliminate critical salts and minerals your body needs, so make sure you’re replacing these too. You can replace salts by drinking a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade.
Seek medical attention for heat cramps if:
- Cramps last longer than one hour.
- You are on a low-sodium diet.
- You have heart problems.
You might be able to relieve heat cramps by gently massaging or applying firm pressure on the cramping muscles. Drink water in sips unless you feel nauseous. If you feel nauseous, stop drinking water.
Extreme Heat (ready.gov)
Wildfire Smoke page