Don’t Let Heat Have You Beat!

Sunny day.

Take precautions to stay healthy during hot weather, warn heat experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Each year, heat kills 1,500 people on average in the United States — more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined,” said Eli Jacks, chief of fire and public weather services with NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Heat can be a silent killer because it doesn’t topple trees or rip roofs off houses like tornadoes and hurricanes. Nevertheless, it’s a dangerous weather condition for which people should prepare.”

A number of target populations should be especially careful during hot weather conditions. For example, city-dwellers and those who live in the upper floors of tall buildings or in heat prone areas are most at-risk for heat-related illness. People who have trouble getting around, with health conditions, and the young and elderly also are susceptible to the risks of hot weather.

The good news is that, with a few simple precautions, you can remain safe while still enjoying the great outdoors this summer.  

Sunny sky.

Step 1:  Be Informed/Stay Alert

Know when a heat advisory or warning has been issued for your community. NOAA’s National Weather Service continually updates heat-related advisories and warnings online (click on “Excessive Heat Warning” and “Heat Advisory” under the U.S. map — if there are no current warnings or advisories in the United States, nothing will appear). NOAA issues excessive heat warnings when weather conditions pose an imminent threat to life. NOAA issues heat advisories when weather conditions are expected to cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could become life threatening.

If you do not have Internet access, you can get heat advisory and warning information by watching your local television newscast or by purchasing and tuning into NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards.

Step 2:  Make Advanced Preparations for Heat

Step 3:  Know What to Do & What Not to Do During Hot Weather and know the warning signs of heat illness

Child at beach.

Do - Slow down and reduce strenuous activity. Mow the lawn and work in the garden early morning or evening instead of mid-day
Do - Dress in lightweight, light-colored clothing
Do - Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids
Do - Eat light, easy to digest foods
Do - Seek out shade if you have to be outdoors for extended periods
Do - Spend more time in air-conditioned places
Do - Check in on elderly neighbors and relatives to make sure they are okay
Do - When outside, take frequent dips in the ocean or pool, or mist yourself with a water bottle to cool off. When inside, take frequent cool baths or showers
Do - Apply high-SPF sunscreen frequently when outdoors
Do - Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of heat illness (see chart below for symptoms, conditions, and treatment)

Don’t - Leave children, the elderly, or pets in the car for any reason, for any length of time
Don’t - Stay in the sun for long periods of time
Don’t - Take salt tablets unless directed by a physician
Don’t - Drink alcoholic beverages

Step 4:  Never Let Your Guard Down; Repeat Steps 1-3!

Warning Signs, Heat Illnesses, and Treatment

Excessive heat exposure can raise your body temperature to unhealthy levels and may make you ill or even result in death. Take the precautions listed above and be on the lookout for these warning signs that you may be in trouble:




Painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating.


Heat Cramps

Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm.

Give sips of water; if nausea occurs, discontinue water intake.

Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Heavy sweating, weakness,
cool skin, pale and clammy. Weak pulse. Normal temperature possible. Possible muscle cramps, dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting.

Heat Exhaustion


Move individual out of sun, lay him or her down, and loosen clothing.

Apply cool, wet cloths.

Fan or move individual to air conditioned room.

Give sips of water; if nausea occurs, discontinue water intake.

If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention. Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Altered mental state.
Possible throbbing
headache, confusion,
nausea and dizziness.
High body temperature
(106°F or higher). Rapid
and strong pulse. Possible
unconsciousness. Skin
may be hot and dry, or
patient may be sweating.
Sweating likely especially
if patient was previously involved in vigorous activity.

Heat Stroke


Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency.
Summon emergency medical assistance or get the individual to a hospital immediately.

Delay can be fatal.

Move individual to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment.

Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging.

Use air conditioners. Use fans if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. Use extreme caution.

Remove clothing. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids.

Source: Heat Guide Book, Environmental Protection Agency NOAA logo.