Stay cool during a heat wave to prevent heat-related illness

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In extreme heat, stay inside, keep cool, and ensure you're drinking enough fluids.

Although heat is sometimes dismissed as merely an inconvenience, most years it's actually the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. Therefore, it is extremely important to know how to keep your body and home cool, what to do to stay safe during a heat wave, and where to seek shelter if necessary.

Preventing heat-related illness

Heat-related illnesses are caused by water loss,  excess physical activity, and reduced nutrients which causes your core temperature to rise. Prevent or treat heat-related illnesses, and protect yourself, your family, and your pets from extreme heat with the guidelines below.

Keep cool

  • Drink plenty of water or electrolyte-rich sports drinks containing salt and sugar, to replace water and nutrients lost through sweat.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing that allows your body to release excess heat and moisture better escape from your body.
  • During extreme heat, reduce the amount of physical activity you expend from exercise or work. Performing high amounts of physical activity during extreme heat can lead to heat-related illnesses or even death. 
  • Reduce your core body temperature low by taking showers or baths in cool water.
  • Stay in the shade or wear a full-coverage hat to avoid direct exposure to sunlight.

Keep your home cool 

  • Use reflective window covers to keep sunlight out and reduce the warmth of your home.
  • Place a fan in an open window if the temperature outside is below 95°F.  However, this is not advised if the temperature rises to 95°F or above. It's important to keep hot air from coming into your home, do NOT open windows or doors at these temperatures (source).
  • Stay on the lowest floor of your home or building to avoid the effects of rising heat. Cooler air sinks and warmer air rises, making room temperatures on higher floors of a building hotter. If air conditioning is not available or ventilation is restricted residents living on higher floors may experience difficulty maintaining a consistent internal temperature (source).

Seek out the cool

  • If you do not have an air conditioner, find a nearby public place with air conditioning and stay there. Consider spending the warmest part of the day in a public building such as a library, school, movie theater, shopping mall, or other community facility.   
  • In the event of power outages, find a designated public shelter or cooling-off center. To find the nearest shelter in your area text SHELTER and your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA).  To find cooling-off centers enter your zip code at (source).

Protect yourself and others

  • Small enclosed spaces like cars heat up faster and at higher temperatures than homes. After just 10 mins, the average in-car temperature in the sun is nearly 20°F higher than the outdoor temperature, which is why leaving children and pets unattended can be fatal.
  • Check on pets frequently to ensure they have plenty of cool water and aren't suffering from the heat. Ensure they have adequate cover from direct sunlight and plenty of cool water to drink. 
  • Paved areas absorb heat and release it very slowly, eventually becoming much hotter than the air temperature. At just 85°F outside, concrete can get to 105°F and asphalt 130°F. Avoid paved areas such as parking lots and sidewalks on hot days as pets and children can easily get burned. 

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