Are you ready for the upcoming heat wave? More than 170 million people in the US are now under heat alerts for the coming weekend. Excessive heat is not just an unpleasant nuisance – it can be downright dangerous. The CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, more than 700 people died!
Take steps to prepare and plan for the weekend ahead. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from experts on how to minimize the effects of the heat.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
- Take it easy – avoid strenuous activity in the heat.
- Plan outdoor activities for the early or late part of the day. Stay indoors and out of the sun in the heat of the day.
- If you don’t have AC, plan activities in public places that are cool: movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls and other air conditioned public or entertainment places. Make a trip to your favorite local swimming hole or pool to beat the heat, but keep an eye out for thunderstorms and make sure you use sunscreen.
- If you can’t get to a pool, take cool showers or bath. Splash yourself with cool water or soak your feet and ankles in cool water. Apply cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol intake low – while it might make you think you feel better, alcohol is actually dehydrating. Plain water is the best.
- Wear loose, cool, light-colored clothing. If you go outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen!
- Eat light, easily digestible dinners. Be careful about salty foods. Avoid using ovens or appliances that generate heat. If you cook, use a microwave or outdoor grill.
- Take care of your pets – don’t let them get overheated or dehydrated.
- Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors to make sure they are OK.
- If your power goes out, check with local emergency services to find emergency cooling centers.
- Never, never, never leave children or pets in a car alone – even for a few minutes.
- Know the symptoms of and watch out for heat-related illnesses.
Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention. It’s nothing to fool around with.