Summer is here and the heat has come with it. With
hot weather in the forecast, now is the time to learn or review some Red Cross
safety tips to handle extreme heat. The following information can help you
prepare for a heat wave and keep your household safe.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, even if you
do not feel thirsty. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you’re already
dehydrated. Avoid drinks with caffeine, sugar or alcohol.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. To prevent dehydration, limit your intake of spicy foods, heavy proteins such as meat, and certain vegetables: mangoes, fennel, artichokes and asparagus. Increasing your intake of citrus fruits, watermelon and berries can help you stay hydrated.
- Postpone outdoor games, whether you are a participant or spectator. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks. Also, use the buddy system to keep an eye on each other. This ensures no one gets overheated and that immediate help is available if necessary.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect the sun’s rays more than dark colors, which absorb the sun’s rays.
- Be sure to apply sunscreen to all areas of your exposed
skin. Reapply it throughout the day, especially after swimming.
- Wear hats and sunglasses to shield your eyes.
- Do your best to keep heat outside and cool air
inside your home. During the day, close your home’s doors and windows. Pull
down window blinds and close curtains, especially in sunny areas that will increase
- Conserve electricity that isn’t used to keep you
cool. For instance, turn off computers, the TV, radio and other small
appliances unless it’s necessary to use them.
- Vacuum air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high usage.
- During extreme heat, stay in air-conditioned
buildings as much as possible. If you do not have air conditioning, locate
places you can go to cool off during the hottest part of the day such as malls,
libraries and theaters.
- Look out for your neighbors – people who are elderly, young or sick are more likely to become victims of heat-related illness and may need your help.
- Never leave children or pets in your vehicle, even
for a few minutes. According to the National Weather Service, a car left in 80-degree
weather yielded an inside temperature of 95 degrees and rising in just 2
- Discuss with a healthcare provider any concerns
about yourself and members of the household who are taking medications or have
medical conditions that may cause poor blood circulation or reduced ability to
Check on animals frequently to ensure that they
are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of water and shade. Ice is a welcome treat for some as well!
- Again, never leave pets in your vehicle.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following illnesses that too much heat creates for the body. Take precautions to prevent these emergencies.
legs and abdomen. They are often an early sign that the body is overheating. If
someone is experiencing heat cramps:
- Get the person to a cooler place and have him or
her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle.
- Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a
sports drink. Water may also be given.
exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps. It often affects people that do hard physical
labor outside such as athletes, firefighters, and construction workers. Signs
of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache;
nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. If someone is experiencing heat
- Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or
loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet towels to the skin. Fan the person.
- If the person is conscious, give him or her small
amounts of cool fluids like a sports drink, fruit juice or water. Make sure the
person drinks slowly.
- If the person refuses water, vomits, or begins to
become unresponsive, immediately call 9-1-1.
Heat stroke is caused when the body’s systems are overwhelmed by heat
and begin to stop functioning. Signs of heat stroke include:
- Extremely high body
- Red skin which may be dry or moist
- Changes in consciousness
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
If someone is experiencing heat stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Heat stroke is life threatening.
While you’re waiting for emergency help to arrive:
- Try to bring the person’s body temperature down by putting him or her into a cool
bath or shower if possible. If you don’t
have access to a tub or shower, put ice into a wet towel and gently rub the wet
towel over the person’s body to bring their temperature down.
- If the person is responsive, give small amounts of
cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly.
By following the safety tips above, you can take
measures to avoid heat-related illness. Remember to listen to local weather
forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperatures when making your summer
plans. For more information about heat safety, download the free Red
Cross Emergency App. The app offers extreme weather alerts, a Heat
Wave Safety Checklist and expert medical advice right at your fingertips.