How to Stay Safe in Extreme Heat

Are you dreading the sizzling summer days? As temperatures soar, knowing how to stay safe in extreme heat is crucial. With the risks of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke on the rise, it’s time to arm yourself with the knowledge to keep you and your loved ones protected from the extreme heat.

What to Do if Someone Has a Heat Illness?

Heat-related illnesses can range from mild to severe. Recognizing the symptoms and knowing what to do can make all the difference. Signs of heat stroke may include rapid pulse, hot and dry skin, and unconsciousness.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and usually present as muscle pain or spasms.

How to Detect

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that occur during or after intense physical activity in hot environments. Here are some common symptoms of heat cramps:

  • Muscle pain or spasms, especially in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
  • Muscle cramping: mild to severe.
  • Muscle stiffness or soreness.
  • Dehydration.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

What to Do

  • Move the person to a cooler location.
  • Provide water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink to help replenish lost fluids and salts.
  • Encourage gentle stretching of the affected muscles.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and can lead to heat stroke if not treated promptly. To prevent heat exhaustion, stay hydrated, avoid the sun, and take breaks in the shade.

How to Detect

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Pale, cool, and moist skin

What to Do

  • Move the person to a cooler location, preferably with air conditioning or shade.
  • Loosen or remove any unnecessary clothing.
  • Encourage the person to sip water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths or ice packs wrapped in a towel to the neck, armpits, and groin areas.
  • If symptoms persist or worsen, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Help someone experiencing heat stroke by moving them to a cooler area and calling for medical assistance.

How to Detect

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Confusion or altered mental state
  • Unconsciousness or seizures

What to Do

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler location and remove any unnecessary clothing.
  • Try to lower the person’s body temperature by applying cool, wet cloths or ice packs wrapped in a towel to the neck, armpits, and groin areas.
  • Do not give the person anything to drink, as this could cause choking or vomiting.

Heat Rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating.

How to Detect

It appears as clusters of small, red bumps or blisters, usually on the neck, chest, or in skin folds.

What to Do

  • Move the person to a cooler location and remove any unnecessary clothing.
  • Keep the affected skin clean and dry.
  • Use over-the-counter creams or ointments to relieve itching and prevent infection.
  • Avoid using any products that could block the sweat glands, such as heavy creams or ointments.


Sunburn is skin damage caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

How to Detect

Symptoms include red, painful, and warm-to-touch skin, as well as possible swelling and blisters.

What to Do

  • Move the person out of the sun and into a cooler location.
  • Apply a cool, wet cloth or take a cool bath or shower to soothe the skin.
  • To help relieve pain and itching, use over-the-counter creams or lotions containing aloe vera or hydrocortisone.
  • Don’t pop any blisters, as this could lead to infection.
  • Reduce pain and inflammation by taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Video courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How to Prepare for Extreme Heat?

Being prepared for extreme heat can help prevent heat-related illnesses and ensure your safety. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

  • Heat illness can range from mild to severe, and it is crucial to recognize the symptoms early to seek medical attention promptly. Heat illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • While fans can provide some relief from the heat, they do not reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses. It is best to use other cooling devices or techniques to stay cool.
  • Places such as libraries and shopping malls can provide air-conditioned spaces where you can cool off during extreme heat. You can also contact your local health department to find a cooling center in your area.
  • Covering windows with drapes or shades can help block out the sun’s heat and keep your home cool. You can also use window deflectors designed to reflect heat back outside.
  • Weather-stripping doors and windows can help prevent cool air from escaping your home and keep hot air from entering.
  • Adding insulation to your home can help keep it cool during extreme heat by reducing heat transfer through walls, floors, and ceilings.
  • An attic fan can help regulate the heat level in your home’s attic by clearing out hot air. This can help prevent your home from overheating during extreme heat.
  • Window air conditioners can provide efficient and effective cooling during extreme heat. Make sure to insulate around the air conditioner to prevent cool air from escaping.
  • If you are unable to afford your cooling costs or weatherization or energy-related home repairs, LIHEAP can provide assistance.

Tips to Stay Safe in Extreme Heat

If you want to stay safe in extreme heat, it is necessary to combine preparation with smart choices. Follow these tips to protect yourself and others from heat-related illnesses:

  • Leaving people or pets in a closed car on a warm day can lead to heatstroke or even death. The temperature inside a car can rise very quickly, even with the windows cracked. Always make sure to take your pets with you and never leave them in a parked car.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, it’s important to find a cool place to stay. Consider going to a cooling center, which is a place where you can go to cool off and get some relief from the heat.
  • Taking cool showers or baths can help lower your body temperature and provide some relief from the heat.
  • Wearing loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing can help you stay cool in the heat. Tight-fitting clothing can trap heat and make you feel even hotter.
  • Using your oven less can help reduce the temperature in your home. Consider grilling outside or using a slow cooker instead.
  • Finding shade and wearing a hat wide enough to protect your face can help you stay cool while you’re outside.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water and sports drinks, can help you stay hydrated and prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Avoiding high-energy activities or working outdoors during midday heat can help prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Checking on family members, seniors, and neighbors can help ensure that everyone is safe and comfortable during extreme heat.
  • It’s important to watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Symptoms can include muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, and confusion.
  • If you have pets, make sure they have plenty of cool water and access to comfortable shade. Asphalt and dark pavement can be very hot and can burn your pet’s feet.
  • If you’re wearing a mask, it’s important to use one that is made of breathable fabric, such as cotton. If you feel yourself overheating or have trouble breathing, it’s important to remove your mask.

Video courtesy of  US Department of Labor.

Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Heat illness first aid includes moving to a cooler area, hydrating, and seeking medical attention. To avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke, stay hydrated, take breaks, and avoid prolonged exposure to heat.

  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothes to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke when dealing with extreme heat. These types of clothing will aid in regulating your body temperature and keeping you cool.
  • Stay Cool Indoors: Find air-conditioned spaces or create a cool environment at home to escape the heat. Keep blinds or curtains closed during the day to block the sun’s rays and maintain a cooler indoor temperature. Staying indoors during peak heat hours helps in heat stroke prevention.
  • Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: To prevent heat stroke and heat exhaustion, avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. Instead, aim to schedule your outdoor activities during the cooler early morning or late evening hours.
  • Pace Yourself: When engaging in physical activities in extreme heat, it’s important to pace yourself. Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors, and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Listen to your body’s warning signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and act accordingly.
  • Wear Sunscreen: Put on some sunscreen before going outside and have a fun day in the sun. Protect your skin from harmful sun rays by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Remember to reapply the sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Do Not Leave Children in Cars: Never leave children, elderly individuals, or pets in parked vehicles, as temperatures inside can quickly become dangerously high. Doing so can lead to heat stroke or even death.
  • Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: Eating hot and heavy meals can raise your body’s temperature and make it more difficult to stay cool. Opt for lighter, cooler meals that are easier to digest and won’t contribute to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
  • Stay Hydrated: Ensuring that you drink plenty of water is crucial to staying safe during hot weather. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink, as thirst may not accurately indicate dehydration. Make it a habit to stay hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  • Monitor Those at High Risk: Keep an eye on family members, friends, and neighbors who may be at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses, such as older adults, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions.
  • Knowing the first aid for heat stroke and heat exhaustion can help you respond quickly and effectively in an emergency.


By following these tips and guidelines, you can stay safe in extreme heat and protect yourself and others from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses. Remember to always stay hydrated, take breaks in the shade or indoors, and know the warning signs and first aid steps for heat-related emergencies.

Extreme Heat Safety Resources

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