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Protect Yourself from Extreme Heat

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Summer’s here and areas around the country are already experiencing extreme heat. Did you know around the world extremely hot days have become more frequent and intense since the 1950s?

That’s why it’s important to understand how to protect yourself because extreme heat — which is considered a prolonged period of high heat and humidity — makes your body works extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Here are 9 ways to keep you and your loved ones cool this summer:

  1. Check the forecast. Before making plans, check your local forecast to see if there’s an excessive heat advisory. An excessive heat warning is issued up to a day before extremely dangerous heat conditions start. An excessive heat watch is issued when conditions are favorable for excessive heat in the next 24 to 72 hours. A heat advisory is issued within 12 hours before dangerous heat conditions are expected.
  2. Never leave pets or people in a car. Did you know when it’s only 80 degrees, your car’s interior can reach 118 degrees in just 20 minutes? Leaving anyone in a parked car on warm days is dangerous. Infants and children are especially in danger of getting a heat stroke or dying.  
  3. 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.  
  4. Find air conditioning. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Keep in mind while electric fans may provide comfort, when the temperature is in the high 90s they will not prevent heat-related illness.  
  5. Keep your house cool. 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.  
  6. Dress appropriately and 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 loose, lightweight, light-colored clothes. a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Putt on a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going outside during the day.  Sunscreen wears off, so be sure to reapply it every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  7. Avoid strenuous activities. High heat and outdoor activities don’t always mix well. Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest: morning and evening hours. Take frequent breaks in shady areas so your body has a chance to recover.
  8. Check on your family and friends. Older adults, children and people with chronic medical conditions are at high risk from heat related injury and death.
  9. Eat light. Hot, heavy meals add heat to your body.

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 and sip cool nonalcoholic beverages. Change into lightweight clothes or take a cool (not cold) bath.

For heat stroke, you may experience a high internal body temperature (above 103 degrees), rapid and strong pulse, red skin, dizziness or confusion. This is considered a medical emergency, so call 911 or seek medical attention as soon as possible. While waiting, attempt to cool your body in by moving to a shady area or indoors. Do not give anyone with suspected heat stroke any liquids. You can also get into a cool (not cold) bath or shower, or if outside spray yourself with a garden hose.

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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