Make sure to take care of yourself and your loved ones when the heat is on. Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off.
These are the main things affecting your body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather:
High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather. People at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases.
The best defense is prevention. Follow these tips:
Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink in hot weather.
Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have AC, go to the shopping mall or public library. Even a few hours spent in AC 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.
Electric fans may provide comfort, but when temperatures reach the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place are much better ways to cool off.
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
NEVER leave anyone—infants, children, pets—in a closed, parked vehicle.
Visit at-risk adults at least twice daily to watch them for signs of heat illness. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
If you must be outdoors in the heat:
Limit your activity to morning and evening hours.
Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink 2-4 glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluid each hour. Sports beverages can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking sports beverages.
Try to rest often in shady areas.
Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses, and put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).
This information is provided by the National Center for Environmental Health’s Health Studies Branch.