10 Tips for Staying Safe During a Heatwave
By Shannon Butler
The summer solstice is a week away, but it feels more like mid-July out there. Our winter lingered, our spring was cool and rainy without much transition between spring weather and now. Consequently, most of us will not be conditioned for the excessive heat and high humidity in our forecast. With much of the country under heat advisories affecting over 125 million people– including Minnesota and most of the upper Midwest, we’ve got some tips to help you stay safe, stay cool, and beat the heat.
1. Stay hydrated. Our bodies need fluids to keep ourselves cool. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to replenish fluids lost through perspiration, drink plenty of liquids and avoid beverages with caffeine (like coffee or caffeinated teas and sodas), alcohol and soda pop.
2. Never leave people or pets unattended in a vehicle. Even in the shade or with the windows cracked open the temperature inside a car and get dangerously hot within a matter of minutes.
3. Avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the peak hours for sun and heat. When possible, schedule physically demanding labor or exercise to mornings or evenings when it is cooler and the sun is lower in the sky. If you need to work outdoors, or in an un-airconditioned environment, take cool-down breaks sit in the shade, or in an air-conditioned area, rest, and drink plenty of water. Remember it will take time to condition yourself to being active in the heat. Be patient with yourself.
4. Wear sun protection. Hats with visors or wide brims, sunglasses, UV protective clothing (UPF clothing) like rash guards or sun shirts help especially when combined with sunscreen. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen regularly every 2 hours and more frequently if you are swimming or being active.
5. Dress for the elements. Wearing light-colored and lightweight clothing will help your body keep itself cool.
6. Know your medical conditions, and medications. Talk to your doctor or medical professionals to find out if you have a medical condition or are on a medication which increases your risk of heat-related illness.
7. Be aware that infants and children under the age of 4, and people over 65 years old are at greater risk of heat related illness.
8. Check the weather forecast and keep an eye on the humidity. We’ve all heard the phrase, it’s not the heat it’s the humidity…adding high humidity to already high temperatures makes it feel even hotter. The humidity slows evaporation of perspiration, hindering our ability to keep ourselves cool. Checking the forecast for heat advisories, high humidity, high heat index, before going outdoors will allow you to prepare for the elements and avoid heat stress.
9. Be neighborly. During heat waves and heat advisories, check in with friends, family and neighbors who are elders, or are socially isolated.
10. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness, take action to alleviate overheating Know when to seek medical care.