A heat wave is a period of unusually and uncomfortably hot weather. Heat waves typically occur during the summer or in southern regions, but they can happen at any time of year.
A heat wave can be dangerous to your health. When the temperature rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C), the body’s ability to cool down is limited. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are possible when the body cannot cool itself sufficiently.
The heat wave that has gripped much of the country this summer is not only uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous.
To ensure you stay safe during this extreme weather, here are six tips:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water — about 16 ounces every hour — especially if you’re exercising or playing sports outdoors. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, drink water before you’re thirsty. Dehydration can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be deadly when temperatures reach high levels.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers. Avoid dark colors because they absorb more heat than light colors do. Wear hats and sunscreen to protect your skin from burns and wrinkles.
- Check on older family members and neighbors who are less able to care for themselves during periods of extreme heat, such as those living alone or with limited mobility or access to air conditioning. Call 911 immediately if someone appears to be suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion symptoms: confusion, nausea/vomiting, fainting/dizziness, weakness/fatigue/thirstiness, muscle cramps/spasms.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both can stimulate the body’s temperature-regulating mechanisms and cause increased sweating.
- Limit outdoor activity during peak sun hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Try to stay in shaded areas while outdoors, especially around concrete surfaces where temperatures can rise 20 degrees higher than in nearby grassy areas.
- If you must be outside for long periods of time during peak sun hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), try to stay in areas that offer some protection from direct sunlight such as under trees or buildings with shade structures; avoid sitting directly on concrete surfaces as well as asphalt and blacktop roads because they absorb heat and radiate it back up at you.