Extended heat waves can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people, especially the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, the young (under age four) and those who are overweight.
- Be familiar with the symptoms of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke; be ready to respond if any of these symptoms are exhibited.
- Make sure your home’s air-conditioning system works properly. It’s best to have it checked every year before the weather gets hot.
- If your house does not have air conditioning, consider having it installed. If that is not possible, have at least one or more fans on hand to help sweat evaporate and cool your body. (Keep in mind that while electric fans may provide comfort, they will not necessarily prevent heat-related illness during periods of extreme heat.)
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
In the event of extreme heat:
- Pay attention and respond to government warnings about extreme heat in your area.
- Stay indoors as much as possible, and avoid exerting yourself outdoors.
- If you are home, stay on the lowest floor out of the sun, where typically it’s coolest. If that is not possible, go inside a cool building (e.g., shopping mall, community center, library) during the hottest hours of the day.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help keep your body cool, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and alcoholic beverages (particularly beer), which can be dehydrating.
- Eat small, light frequent meals. Avoid excessive protein or heavy foods.
- Wear light, loose-fitting warm-weather clothing; avoid layers of clothing.
- Take frequent cool showers, baths or sponge baths.
- Some prescription medications may interfere with the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature or inhibit sweat production. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for these and other possible side effects.
- Never leave children in closed vehicles even for brief periods of time. Temperatures in automobiles can climb to 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C) within minutes and can be lethal.
Elderly people have more trouble adjusting to sudden changes in temperature than younger people do, so be alert to their special needs. Many chronic medical conditions impair the body’s normal responses to heat. Check on elderly friends and neighbors and others who are at risk of heat-related illnesses at least twice a day.
- Make sure pets have plenty of water and access to shade or cooler environments.
- Be careful not to over-exert any pets during outdoor activities (especially older animals and dogs with thick fur); they can succumb to heat exhaustion and heat stroke much more quickly than humans.
- Never leave pets in a closed vehicle, even for very short periods.