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Extreme heat can cause serious illness and death. In very hot and humid regions, evaporation decreases, making it more difficult for the body to maintain a healthy temperature.
Heat-related health disorders are caused by extreme heat or excessive exercise. People in poor physical condition who overextend themselves during physical activity, the elderly, young children, and overweight individuals often experience heat-related health disorders while exposed to high temperatures.
Bad air quality often exacerbates heat-related health problems. As a result, those in large cities are at greater risk of heat-related health problems than those in rural areas. Likewise, concrete and asphalt retain heat that is slowly released, resulting in higher evening temperatures.
Heat waves occur during extended days and weeks of excessive heat. In addition to extreme temperatures, humidity is usually higher during heat waves. Failure to prepare for heat waves can cause serious health problems and death.
What to Do Before Extreme Heat
Follow these steps to protect yourself against extreme heat:
- Develop a plan and .
- Snugly install air conditioners that sit in windows. When possible, insulate windows.
- Inspect air-conditioning ducts for insulation problems.
- Install window reflectors between drapes and windows, which include cardboard covered in aluminum, to reduce the amount of heat entering through windows.
- Ensure doors are lined with weather stripes to retain as much cool air as possible in the house.
- Use drapes, louvers, awnings, or shades to cover windows that receive excessive amounts of sunlight. In fact, using outdoor louvers or awnings can cut the amount of heat entering a house by 80 percent.
- Leave storm windows in place year round.
- Watch local weather reports to remain updated about temperature changes.
- Get to know elderly, young, and sick people in the neighborhood, so you can provide assistance to them in the case of a heat wave, especially if you live in an urban area.
- Take added precautions if you live in a big city since heat waves are typically worse than in rural areas.
- Learn first aid so you can provide assistance to ill people during heat-related medical emergencies.
What to Do During Extreme Heat
Take these precautions during extremely high temperatures:
- Pay attention to NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for important National Weather Service (NWS) updates.
- Do not leave pets or children in closed automobiles.
- Avoid sun exposure and remain indoors when possible .
- In multi-story, non-air conditioned homes, spend as much time as possible in the lowest level.
- Reschedule outdoor activities and sporting events .
- Spend the hottest part of the day in libraries, malls, movie theaters, schools, or other public buildings since circulating air increases the body’s perspiration rate of evaporation.
- Eat regular, light, and well-balanced meals. Refrain from eating excessive amounts of salt unless advised to by a doctor.
- Drink a lot of water, regardless of whether you’re thirsty. Cut or reduce caffeine consumption. Individuals with liver, kidney, cardiovascular disease, or epilepsy should meet with a doctor before increasing water consumption.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Wear lightly-colored and loose-fitting clothes covering the arms and legs. Refrain from wearing dark colors since they absorb more sun light.
- Wear a hat to shield your face from sunlight.
- If possible, avoid strenuous physical labor when in extreme heat. If working in heat is necessary, frequently take breaks and stay near a co-worker or friend in case of an emergency.
- Frequently check on family members, neighbors, and friends who live alone without adequate air conditioning.
- Avoid extreme changes in temperature.
- Frequently check on pets to make sure they are protected from extreme heat. If you lose power during a heat wave, locate a public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to locate the closest public shelter in your region (example: shelter 87112).
More Information and Resources
- . An outline brochure describing the heat index, heat disorders and heat wave safety tips.