Heat is the number one weather‐related killer in the United States. Your best defense against heat‐related illnesses is prevention. You can be prepared by knowing the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, staying hydrated and being ready to give first aid treatment. Extreme heat can affect anyone, but it is especially dangerous to children, the elderly and people with health problems.
Basic Summer Safety
- Stay updated by listening to local weather forecasts and predictions for when the temperatures will reach their highest points.
- Pay attention to both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Exposure to direct sunlight can also increase the heat index by as much as 15° F.
- Stay indoors as much as possible, preferably on the lowest floor and away from the sun’s rays.
- Plan for changes in your daily activities that would avoid strenuous work or travel during the warmest part of the day.
- If you don’t have air conditioning or in case of a power outage, designate a public place where you could go for relief from the heat (libraries, shopping malls and movie theatres). Also check for designated cooling centers provided throughout Cook County.
- If you have medical conditions that may cause poor blood circulation or if you’re taking medication that may reduce your ability to tolerate heat, consult a physician.
- Consider the well-being of elderly or special needs neighbors who may not have access to air conditioning.
- Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
- Remember that your pets also need plenty of water and shade.
Treating Heat-Related Illnesses
During heat waves, people are susceptible to conditions such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and exhaustion, as well as more extreme conditions like changes in consciousness, shallow breathing and vomiting. At the first sign of heat-related illness:
- Move the person to a cooler place and let them rest in a comfortable position.
- Provide water or electrolyte heavy fluids, like a sports drink or fruit juice.
- Apply cool, wet towels to the skin. Fanning or spraying the person with water can also help.
- If the person’s condition does not improve, if he or she refuses water, has a change in consciousness or vomits, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Additional Safety Tips
- Dress in baggy, lightweight and light-colored clothing.
- Protect your face and head by wearing a wide‐brimmed hat. Use sunscreen on exposed skin if you have to be outside.
- Eat light and small meals more frequently throughout the day.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty.
- Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, as they raise your body temperature.