Heat Illness Awareness

Hot Weather Safety (WSDOH)

Severe heat may cause illness or even death. When temperatures rise to extreme highs, reduce risks by taking the following precautions.

Hot weather precautions to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

  • Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible unless you’re sure your body has a high tolerance for heat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
  • Eat more frequently but make sure meals are balanced and light.
  • Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
  • Avoid dressing babies in heavy clothing or wrapping them in warm blankets.
  • Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of water.
  • Salt tablets should only be taken if specified by your doctor. If you are on a salt-restrictive diet, check with a doctor before increasing salt intake.
  • If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.

If you go outside

  • Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler; then gradually build up tolerance for warmer conditions.
  • Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun block and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes when outdoors.
  • At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
  • Avoid sunburn: it slows the skin’s ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.

If the power goes out or air conditioning is not available

  • If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
  • Ask your doctor about any prescription medicine you keep refrigerated. (If the power goes out, most medicine will be fine to leave in a closed refrigerator for at least 3 hours.)
  • Keep a few bottles of water in your freezer; if the power goes out, move them to your refrigerator and keep the doors shut.

The above information is available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Somali, Ukranian

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Stay Cool and Hydrated to Prevent Heat Illness

Take the following precautions to make sure you and those close to you don’t get a heat-related illness.

  • Monitor People at Higher Risk of Heat Illness. People may be at greater risk for heat-related illness if they are:
    • Infants or young children.
    • 65 years of age or older.
    • Overweight.
    • Overexerting during work or exercise.
    • Physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
    • Taking certain medications, especially for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.
  • Stay cool indoors. Don’t rely on fans alone to cool you down. When it’s hotter than 90 degrees, fans will not prevent heat illness. Take a cool shower or bath and seek air-conditioned spaces instead, and use your oven and stove sparingly to keep the temperature in your home down. If your home doesn’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere else that does, like a shopping mall. Remember to wear a mask when you’re indoors if you’re unvaccinated or if it’s crowded inside. 
  • Hydrate. Drink more fluids than you normally would, but make sure you replace salt and minerals. Heavy sweating depletes these. Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade may be consumed to replace lost salts and minerals. 
  • Limit outdoor activity. If possible, limit your activities outdoors to the coolest parts of the day, in the morning and evening. Cut down on your exercise in the heat and rest often. If you must work outside, take frequent breaks. The CDC has more resources for people who work in the heat.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Wear light-colored, light-weight and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Don’t leave children or pets in parked cars, even with windows cracked open. 

We’ve all heard that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. And it’s true! But if prevention fails, it’s important to know what the cure is. There are a number of critical steps you can take if you can recognize the signs of heat illness.

Know The Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Did you know that sunburn is a heat-related illness? That’s right. But there are more serious heat-related illnesses to be aware of, including:

  • Heat Cramps – These are painful muscle spasms, most often in the legs and abdomen. Heat cramps may be a sign of heat exhaustion.
  • Heat Exhaustion – Symptoms include heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; headache; fainting. 
  • Heat Stroke – This is a serious and life-threatening emergency. Symptoms include a body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; hot, red, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; loss of consciousness.

If you’re experiencing heat cramps or heat exhaustion, you may need medical attention. If you’re experiencing heat stroke, you must get help right away. Delay may be fatal.

When to Seek Help and What to Do If You’re in Trouble

If you think someone may be experiencing heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Do not delay. Their life is in danger. After you’ve called 911, move the person to a cooler place, preferably with air conditioning. Use cool, wet cloths to cool them down, or place them in a cool bath. Do not give them anything to drink. 

You may need to seek medical attention if you or someone else is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat cramps too. 

Seek medical attention for heat exhaustion if:

  • You vomit.
  • Your symptoms get worse. 
  • Your symptoms last longer than one hour.

If you or someone else is showing signs of heat exhaustion, move to a cooler place, preferably with air conditioning. Loosen clothes and use cool, wet cloths to cool down, or sit in a cool bath. Sip water. Heavy sweating can eliminate critical salts and minerals your body needs, so make sure you’re replacing these too. You can replace salts by drinking a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade. 

Seek medical attention for heat cramps if:

  • Cramps last longer than 1 hour
  • You’re on a low-sodium diet
  • You have heart problems

Heat cramps may be relieved by gently massaging or applying firm pressure on the cramping muscles. Drink water in sips unless you feel nauseous. If you feel nauseous, stop drinking water.