As we approach August and temperatures continue to rise, it’s important to be mindful of staying safe in the extreme heat. Extreme heat is defined as two to three days or more of high humidity and temperatures above 90 degrees. While these tips may seem like common sense, it appears that many people either ignore or forget about them since extreme heat is often the cause of the most weather-related deaths in the United States in any given year. That’s why we’ve compiled these guidelines to keep you safe (and cool) this summer.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The U.S. National Research Council recommends that you drink eight to ten eight-ounce glasses of water a day in order to stay adequately hydrated. This recommendation becomes especially important in extreme heat when you’re likely to be sweating and losing fluids which can lead to dehydration. Experts at Keck Medicine of USC suggest taking a full water bottle with you everywhere you go. Just by having it around, you’re bound to at least sip on it. They also suggest starting and ending your day with a glass of water and having a glass with every meal to get your glass count up to the recommended 8. You should also avoid drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol, which both works to dehydrate the body.
Avoid Exercising During the Hottest Parts of the Day
Exercising in extreme heat can be dangerous, even if you are adequately hydrated. Mayo Clinic explains that in order to cool itself, “the body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. If the humidity also is high, your body faces added stress because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from your skin. That pushes your body temperature even higher.” Instead of trying to power through the heat, schedule your workouts for early in the morning or later in the evening. Even better? Stick to the gym or an at-home workout to ensure that your body stays cool.
Don’t Leave Children or Pets in Enclose Vehicles
While it may seem ok to leave a child or pet in the car for a few minutes with the windows cracked, the consequences can be deadly. The Seattle Children’s Foundation reports that the temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. So if it’s 80 outside, before you know it your child or pet could be sitting in 100-degree heat with very little fresh air. In an hour, the temperature can climb 40 degrees inside your vehicle. Deaths have occurred when it’s only a balmy 70 degrees outside, so leaving a child or pet in a car in extreme heat is a recipe for disaster.
Don’t Use Electric Fans When the Temperature is Over 95 Degrees
According to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, using electric fans when the temperature is above 95 degrees can be dangerous because they do not actually reduce body temperature. They can create a false sense of cooling because they create air flow, but can actually increase your risk of heat-related illness because your body temperature is not actually being reduced at all. Instead, seek air conditioning wherever possible. Libraries, shopping malls, and community centers are great locations to find air conditioning in times of extreme heat.
Watch for Signs of Heat-Related Illness
When dealing with extreme heat, it’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness so that you can identify them in yourself and others. Be on the lookout for heat cramps, which involve muscle pain or spasms in the arms, legs, or stomach. You may also develop heat exhaustion, which is signaled by heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. In both of these cases, you should seek out an air-conditioned location, drink a sports drink that contains sugar and salt, and get medical attention if your symptoms last more than an hour. More extremely, you may develop heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating, a rapid, strong pulse, and dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness. In this case, call 911 immediately and try to cool down until medical help arrives.
Implement these tips, and you’ll avoid the risks associated with extreme heat this summer.