When the weather heats up, know how to stay safe.

When outside temperatures are very high, the danger for heat-related illness rises. Older adults, young children, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at particularly high risk.

The following tips will help you and your family stay safe:

Keep cool:
It is important to keep cool as temperatures rise.

    • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
    • Dress in lightweight clothing.
    • Take cool showers or baths.
    • Don’t rely solely on fans to keep you cool. Electric fans can provide some comfort, but when temperatures are hot, they don’t prevent heat-related illness.
    • Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.
    • Spend time at a public location—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help.
    • Stay inside during the hottest times of the day (afternoon and early evening).
    • Check on your elderly neighbors and relatives, and encourage them to keep cool and hydrated.

Drink liquids:
Staying hydrated is extremely important during the hot weather, even if you are not outside.

    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol and lots of sugar—they actually dehydrate you.
    • Keep water with you whenever possible, and sip or drink frequently.
    • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
    • Make sure pets have plenty of water.

If you go outside:
If you do have to go outside, be sure to do it safely. Heat-related illnesses can come on quickly.

    • Limit the time you’re in direct sunlight.
    • Do not leave infants, children, people with mobility challenges and pets in a parked car.
    • Limit activities that are tiring, or that take a lot of energy.
    • Do outdoor activities in the cooler morning and evening hours.
    • Avoid sunburn. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
    • At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
    • Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.

If the power goes out or air conditioning is not available:
Air conditioning is great in the heat, but if for any reason it is not available, be sure to consider the following:

    • If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
    • Ask your doctor about any prescription medicine you keep refrigerated. (If the power goes out, most medicine will be fine to leave in a closed refrigerator for at least 3 hours.)
    • Keep a few bottles of water in your freezer; if the power goes out, move them to your refrigerator and keep the doors shut.

Asthma Symptoms:
Heat has the ability to trigger asthma symptoms for some people, which inflames and narrows your airways. Be sure to know the signs and what to look for. Click here for more information.

Water safety:
Some people turn to local rivers to cool off, but drowning is a real concern. Use caution and wear a lifejacket on the water. If you want to swim, choose a safer location—visit a local pool or beach with a lifeguard on duty.

    • Wear a life jacket. Be sure it is Coast Guard approved (indicated on the label), is the right size and fits properly. If you are in need of a custom-fitted life jacket, please call 253.564.1623 or visit our website to request an appointment.
    • Know your limits, including physical fitness and medical conditions.
    • Always swim with a buddy.
    • Supervise children at all times in the water.
    • Swim in designated swim areas.
    • When in doubt, get out of the water.

Remember to call 9-1-1 immediately if someone is struggling in the water. The quicker first responders can access the patient, the better it is for their outcome. Once crews arrive, please help to clear the area so firefighters can get to their last known location. In certain areas, such as the swim areas at local parks, the beaches can be very busy, making access more difficult for incoming responders.

Know the signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

Heat cramps
Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs.
Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. If you are sick and need medical attention, call your healthcare provider. If cramps last more than an hour, seek medical attention.

Heat exhaustion
Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea, vomiting.
Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Call your healthcare provider if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

Heat stroke
Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees). Red, hot and dry skin with no sweat. Rapid, strong pulse. Dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness.
Actions: Call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.


The information above is provided by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Washington State Department of Health.

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