Extreme Heat

person in the hot sunSummer weather means getting outside and having fun or working in the yard, but too much heat can make you sick.  Your body normally cools itself as your sweat evaporates, but during extremely hot weather, when the humidity is high, sweat can't evaporate very well. These conditions can cause the temperature of your body to become dangerously high. High body temperatures can cause severe illness or even death. Read on to learn more about the different types of heat illnesses.

There are four different types of heat illness:

Heatstroke, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Cramps, and Sunburn. Click each illness type for a detailed description.

Some individuals are more sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and may be at greater risk for heat illness, including:

  • Infants and young children

  • People 65 years of age and older

  • People who are overweight

  • People who overexert themselves during exercise or work

  • People who are physically or mentally ill

  • People with chronic medical conditions (heart disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, etc.)

How to Stay Healthy

Heat related illness and death are completely preventable so it is important to understand what you can do to keep yourself healthy when temperatures are extremely high. Use common sense and be especially mindful of when the heat index is above 100 degrees.

  • Keep cool indoors. Use an air conditioner or go to a cool place such as the basement, a neighbor's house, shopping mall or cooling center. Even a few hours in the air conditioning will help you stay cool when you go back into the heat. Electric fans provide comfort, but they will not keep you cool when the temperature is in the high 90's. 

  • Take a cool shower or bath

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, don't wait until you are thirsty (*warning:  you should check with your doctor first if he or she has limited your fluid intake for medical reasons, such as with kidney disease).  Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks such as pop. These beverages may actually dehydrate you even more.

  • Avoid exercise and physical activity during the hottest time of the day.   Mornings and evenings are usually cooler than mid-day.  If you must exercise, drink 2-4 glasses of cool, non-alcoholic beverages every hour. Sports beverages can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

  • Stay out of the sun. Wear sun protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and apply a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protectant) sunscreen SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going outside to protect yourself against sunburn.

  • Check on family, friends and neighbors at least once a day during times of extreme heat.  Help them get to a cool place if necessary.

  • NEVER leave children, the elderly, or pets in parked cars. Cars heat up very quickly and can become dangerously hot, even with the windows open.

For more information