Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, but every year many people have health problems related to extreme heat. Below is some information to be prepared for the hot weather in the coming weeks.

Who is at greatest risk for heat-related illness?

Those at greatest risk for heat-related illness include young children; adults 65 and older; athletes; and people with chronic illness or who are overweight, work outdoors, or have a low income.

What things affect the way the body deals with heat?

Several things affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Medications and health conditions may also affect your body’s ability to regulate heat.

Are there certain health conditions that can increase my risk of heat-related illness?

Chronic illnesses such as heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, alcohol or substance abuse and mental illness can increase risk.

Conditions that affect a person’s ability to sweat — such as heart disease, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease and quadriplegia — also increase risk.

People with mobility and cognitive impairments are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses. Social factors can also contribute to risk. People who are socially isolated or have a low income may be at higher risk, too.

Can medications increase the risk of heat-related illness?

The risk for heat-related illness and death may increase among people using certain drugs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take to learn more about their effects during periods of extreme heat, particularly if you know your medication:

  • Decreases sweating
  • Increases your body’s ability to produce heat
  • Decreases thirst
  • Dehydrates the body
  • Creates hypo-tension

How can people protect their health when temperatures soar?

Remember to stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed. Wear light colored clothing and use sunscreen.

Schedule outdoor activities during cooler times of the day — like in the morning or evening. Drink plenty of fluids.

Avoid alcoholic and sugary drinks. Stay informed of the weather and watch the Heat Index to help you identify the most dangerous periods during the heat wave.

How can I keep my home cool?

If you have an air conditioner, make sure it is installed and working. Set air conditioners to the setting most comfortable to you, preferably between 72°F and 79°F. Block the sun by using awnings or closing curtains and blinds during the day. Avoid using a fan as your main cooling source — especially when it is 90°F or more.

What can I do if it is too hot at home?

Visit a place that has air conditioning, such as a library or community center.

How effective are electric fans in preventing heat-related illness?

Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s or above, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Air conditioning gives strong protection against heat-related illness. Exposure to air conditioning for even a few hours a day will reduce the risk.

How much should I drink during hot weather?

During hot weather you will need to drink more liquid, even when you’re not thirsty. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise when it’s hot, drink two to four glasses (16–32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. They can cause you to lose more fluid.

What is the best clothing for hot weather or a heat wave?

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. A wide brimmed hat will provide shade and keep the head cool. When outdoors, be sure to apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to going out and continue to reapply according to the package directions. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, sweating stops, and the body can’t cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

What are the warning signs of a heat stroke?

  • Very high body temperature (104°F or more)
  • Red, hot skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness

What should I do if I see someone with any of the warning signs of heat stroke?

If you see any of these signs, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 and then begin first aid for heat stroke. Do the following:

  • Move the person to a cooler place, such as a shady or air-conditioned space.
  • Reduce the person’s body temperature by using cool cloths, a garden hose or even a cool shower.
  • Do NOT give fluids. Fluids may enter the lungs and cause other problems.
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101–102°F.

If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for more instructions.

What should I do if I am working during the heat?

Pace yourself. If you are not used to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. Drink fluids early and often. If it’s sunny, use sunscreen. If you’re getting overheated, confused or lightheaded, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least in the shade, and rest.