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It's Gonna Be Hot Out There—Here's How to Deal

Tips for before, during and after the sultry weather.

Summer is back.

While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of the summer season, high temperatures throughout the past holiday weekend made it feel pretty official to anyone struggling to find ways to beat the heat.

That said, it's time to once more offer some heat safety tips. Many may be familiar, but can be easy to ignore until it's too late. These come courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preparing for a Heatwave

What is the heat index?

What meteorologists call the heat index is a number in degrees Fahrenheit that indicates how hot it actually feels outside, when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. When the air temperature outside is 90 degrees, it may actually feel more like 95 degrees or even hotter, depending on how humid conditions are in your area.

Because heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15 degrees. Learn more about the heat index and what to expect in a forecast with our heat index chart.

What should you do?

If a period of extreme heat is forecast for your area, take the following precautions:

  • If you have air conditioning already installed, make sure it works properly before the summer months.
  • Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate them if necessary. Check your home's air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Install temporary window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, between windows and drapes to reflect heat back outside.
  • Install weather stripping on your home's doors and windowsills to keep cool air in and hot air out.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers, which can reduce the heat entering a home by up to 80 percent.
  • Keep storm windows in place year-round.
  • If you don't have air conditioning, open your windows during the coolest part of the day and keep fresh air moving around your home with circulating fans.
  • Drink plenty of cool non-alcoholic liquids, especially water.
  • Protect your face and head with a wide-brimmed hat, and wear light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight (dark clothing more readily absorbs sunlight).
  • Keep pets indoors and refill their water bowls frequently.

During a Heatwave

If your area experiences an extended period of high temperatures or if extreme heat is in the forecast, follow these precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the heat.

What should I do?

The following are guidelines for what you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit your exposure to sun.
  • Stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine, if air conditioning is not available.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
  • Eat regular, light, well-balanced meals and limit your intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Drink plenty of water. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use the buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

Heat wave safety tips

Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.

Dress for summer. Lightweight light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain a normal temperature.

Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.

Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.

Do not drink alcoholic beverages. Instead, drink cool beverages such as water frequently throughout the day.

Do not take salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot weather) in an air-conditioned environment affords some protection.

Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.

After the Heatwave

The best recovery from extreme heat is not to experience it in the first place: prevention is your best defense against any heat-related illness.

If you must be outside during periods of hot weather, follow these tips:

  • Limit your outdoor activity as much as possible to the morning and evening hours, when temperatures are lower.
  • Cut down on your exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids every hour. Drink water or sports beverages, which can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
  • Rest often in shady areas away from the sun.
  • Protect yourself by using sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves.

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