Preparing for an Extreme Heat Event
Extreme heat is the deadliest weather-related hazard in the United States, according to the Washington State Health Department. Washington summers are getting longer, hotter, and potentially more dangerous with extreme heat events predicted to happen more often and last longer.
Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off. To prevent heat-related illness, take measures to stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed.
The main things affecting the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:
- High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly. This keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
- Personal factors: Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use all can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.
Those who are at highest risk include people 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.
Closely monitor people who depend on you for their care and ask these questions:
- Are they drinking enough water?
- Do they have access to air conditioning?
- Do they need help keeping cool?
People at greatest risk for heat-related illness can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as you can. Air-conditioning is the number one way to protect yourself against heat-related illness and death. If your home is not air-conditioned, reduce your risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned and using air conditioning in vehicles. Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
- Do not rely on a fan as your main cooling device during an extreme heat event.
- Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Check on friends and neighbors and have someone check on you.
- Limit use of the stove and oven—it will make you and your house hotter.
Even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather:
- Limit your outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest.
- Pace yourself. Start activities slowly and pick up the pace gradually.
- Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
- Schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
- Monitor a teammate’s condition and have someone do the same for you.
- Seek medical care right away if you or a teammate has symptoms of heat-related illness.
According to state DOH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you should do the following:
- Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, or a lot of sugar.
- Eat more frequently but make sure meals are balanced and light.
- Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
- Avoid dressing babies in heavy clothing or wrapping them in warm blankets.
- Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
- Make sure pets have plenty of water.
- Salt tablets should only be taken if specified by your doctor. If you are on a salt-restrictive diet, check with a doctor before increasing salt intake.
- If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, and sunscreen.
- Pace yourself.
- Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Check the local news for health and safety updates.
For more information about staying safe and healthy during a high-heat event, visit the Island County Department of Emergency Management web page at www.islandcountywa.gov/710/Extreme-Heat or download the Washington State Guide to Weather Safety.
Cooling Centers Open During Extreme Heat Events
During extreme heat events, view cooling centers in Island County that will be available to the public.