How to Stay Safe During a Summer Heatwave

How easy is this to overlook?

Yes, it can get so hot that people die.

But you can get so used to the heat that it seems like no big deal, even when it’s dangerous.

During the 2003 European Union heatwave, 70,000, yes 70,000, people died! 15,000 of these deaths happened in France alone.

Many of these folks were elderly. They either were unprepared, or simply didn’t have the mental faculties to adapt to the intense heat.

Do you remember the 1995 heatwave that led to 700 deaths in Chicago?

…Or the one in 1980 where 1,250 Americans died?

You might think death isn’t likely. And perhaps you’re right. But you could still succumb to heat exhaustion and end up in the emergency room…or just plain miserable.

So how do you keep yourself safe when a heatwave hits?

Here’s how:

1. Prevention Is Key

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Stick to this cliche when considering heat’s effects on your health.

If you know the heat will be intense, stay out of it, if possible.

If you have to be in the intense heat, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. This reflects the sun’s rays and allows your body to release heat fast.

If you have to exercise, do it inside at your local gym. If you want to do it outdoors, wait until the cooler part of the day.

Pace yourself. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion (cramps, dizziness, nausea, headache), and take a break immediately if you notice any.

2. Stay Hydrated

Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you. Only drink them if you know you’ll have ready access to water throughout the day.

Otherwise, drink water every time you notice any level of thirst at all. You might go to the bathroom a little more than you want.

But, at least you know you won’t pass out from heat exhaustion!

3. Watch Out for Your Friends & Neighbors

Do you know someone who spends most of their time alone, or who doesn’t have air conditioning?

Make sure to check in on them a few times during an intense heatwave. And especially so if they’re elderly, as you’ve learned they’re more vulnerable to the heat.

Invite them over to your home if you’re concerned about their health. If they’re capable individuals, encourage them to go to public places with cool air, like the library or mall.

4. Understand the Symptoms of Heat-Related Health Problems

You won’t be surprised by the effects of heat. It’s obvious when it gets to you.

A sunburn is an initial warning sign. Be concerned, but don’t panic.

If you experience heat cramps, that’s time for concern. It’s only a minor emergency, so you don’t have to freak out yet.

For cramps, get to a cooler place as soon as possible. Drink at least 4 ounces of cool water every 15 minutes. Stretch the affected muscle. Eat a banana or two (their high potassium helps relieve cramps).

…And rest.

You’re in a serious emergency when you experience hot, red skin (which can be dry or moist). If you notice changes in your consciousness, that’s an extreme warning sign. If you’re vomiting, and if you feel intensely hot, you’re in an emergency state you can’t deny.

If you can, immerse yourself in cool water up to your neck. Or, at least spray yourself with cool water or cover yourself with cold, wet rags or bags of ice.

And at this point, definitely call 911. These symptoms are life-threatening!

So yes, heat is something to take seriously, no matter how much you might live in it. And now you have a specific guide on exactly how to handle it.