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6 Ways to Stay Cool in Extreme Heat

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With temperatures increasing, it’s important to pay attention to how the heat is impacting your body. In extreme heat — which is considered a prolonged period of high heat and humidity — your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Each year, extreme heat causes more deaths than other weather-related hazards. 

Here are 6 ways to keep you and your loved ones cool this summer:

  1. Drink water. Keep you and your pets hydrated. Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  
  2. Find air conditioning. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library. Check to see if your community set up emergency alternatives for cooling centers, as normal cooling centers may not have enough space for social distancing. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Keep in mind that while electric fans may provide comfort, when the temperature is in the high 90s they will not prevent heat-related illness.  
  3. Insulate your house. You can keep your house cooler by insulating it and covering your windows with drapes or shades. Use window reflectors such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard to reflect heat back outside.  
  4. Wear sunscreen. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out.  
  5. Never leave pets or people in a closed car. Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially in danger of getting a heat stroke or dying.  
  6. Avoid strenuous activities. Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest: morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.

When your area is experiencing extreme heat, it is also important to be able to recognize the signs of heat-related illness. There are three main types: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

For heat cramps, you want to look out for muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs. If this happens, immediately find a cooler location and remove excess clothing.

For heat exhaustion, you may experience heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness or vomiting. You will want to go to an air-conditioned place, remove clothing or take a cool bath.

For heat stroke, you may experience a high internal body temperature (above 103 degrees), rapid and strong pulse, red skin, dizziness or confusion. You should call 9-1-1 and then attempt to cool your body in whatever ways are available to you.

If you experience any of the symptoms of heat-related illness, you should also take sips of a cool sports drink, which helps you replenish vitamins lost when sweating.

For more information on how to be prepared for extreme heat, visit ready.gov/heat.

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Last updated June 29, 2021