Tips to Survive Extreme Summer Heat

March 26, 2014

With longer days, lighter nights and stretches of extreme heat, summer is officially upon us. The time of year for those of all ages to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including vacations, barbecues, sporting events, exercise, relaxing trips to the beach and pool or just enjoying a good book in the backyard has arrived! Summertime in Southern California also brings extreme heat in certain areas for weeks at a time. And while summer is all about fun, it also comes with important preparation in order to protect ourselves and loved ones.

Here is a list of helpful tips on ways to stay cool and safe during extreme heat warning days for people of all ages including the most vulnerable, outdoor workers and athletes. These self-help measures are not a substitute for medical care but may help you recognize and respond promptly to warning signs of trouble. Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention, including:

  • Staying cool and increasing your fluid intake, limiting outdoor activities and wearing light clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.
  • Stay indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library - a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, muscle cramping might be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Here is how you can recognize these conditions and what to do.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness:

Heat Exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; or fainting due to excessive exposure to extreme heat. According to the CDC, if you experience these symptoms, you should move to a cooler location; lie down and loosen your clothing; apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible; sip water; and if you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat Stroke symptoms include a high body temperature (above 103 degrees); hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; possible unconsciousness. In the event that these symptoms occur, the CDC recommends others to call 911 immediately as this is a medical emergency. Also, move the person to a cooler environment; reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or even a cool bath; and do not give the person fluids.

Heat and Infants and Children:

Infants and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of extreme heat, and must rely on other people to keep them cool and hydrated. Never leave infants or children in parked cars, even if the windows are open. Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. For children 6 months and older (as well as adults), sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater reduce the intensity of ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburns. Apply sunscreen liberally 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure so it can absorb into the skin and decrease the likelihood it will wash off. Then reapply every two hours and after swimming, perspiring or drying off with a towel. Seek medical care immediately if your child has symptoms of heat-related illness. Also, never leave pets in a small car, as they can suffer heat-related illness too!

Heat and the Elderly:

Those 65 and older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Closely monitor people who depend on you for their care: Check to see if they are drinking enough water. Do they have access to air conditioning? Do they know how to keep cool? People in this category must be given and reminded of the following information. According to the CDC, elderly individuals are encouraged to stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If air-conditioning is not available, they or a caregiver should call the local health department to locate an air-conditioned shelter in their area.

Elderly individuals should not rely on fans as their primary cooling devices during extreme heat event. They should drink more water than usual and not wait until they’re thirsty to drink; check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for them; avoid using the stove or oven; wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing; take cool showers and baths to cool down; and check the news for health and safety updates. Seek medical attention immediately if you have or someone you know has symptoms of heat-related illness such as muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting. Those with chronic medical conditions also should follow this advice because they may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat.

Help for those in need:

Those who cannot afford air conditioning to keep their homes cool are urged to contact their local health department, or locate a local air-conditioned shelter in their area. Also, they can contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) for assistance.

Heat and Outdoor Workers:

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and suffer heat-related illnesses. Stop all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak, drink To be safe, drink two to four cups of water every hour while working. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink; avoid alcoholic beverages or sugary drinks;; wear and reapply sunscreen of at least 15 SPF as indicated on the package; ask if tasks can be scheduled for earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat; wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing; spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work; encourage co-workers to take breaks to cool off and drink water; seek medical care immediately if you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness.

Heat and Athletes:

People who exercise in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness, and should also stop all activity and get to a cool environment if they feel faint or weak The CDC encourages athletes to limit outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest; wear and reapply sunscreen of at least 15 SPF as indicated on the package; schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler; drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more, muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness; pace activity, and start activities slowly and pick up the pace gradually; monitor a teammate’s condition, and have someone do the same for you; wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing; seek medical care immediately if you or a teammate has symptoms of heat-related illness.​