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Protect Your Family with Heatwave Safety Tips

Summer brings with it lots of fun in the form of vacations and swimming — but it also brings the risk of heatstroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are over 7,000 heat exhaustion and other heat-related deaths in the U.S. each year. As the climate patterns continue to change, that number is likely to rise. Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family when things start to heat up this summer.

Pay Attention to the Heat Index

Focus on the heat index values (forecasters will commonly call these out, and they are easily found on any weather website), especially if you are planning a day outdoors. What is the heat index, exactly? It’s a measurement of both the air temperature and the relative humidity. With high humidity, an outdoor temperature of 85 can feel 10 degrees hotter to your body.

If the weather station issues any of the following:

  • Heat watch
  • Heat advisory
  • Excessive heat warning

Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to heat-related illnesses, or if you have had a prior heat stroke you may have to decide to stay indoors to ensure you are safe from the blistering heat. You should also take precautions such as bringing all pets inside. And don’t forget about checking on your neighbors (especially the elderly)! They need to stay out of the excessive heat, too.

Your Diet Plan When the Heat Arrives

When that heat wave does arrive, you’ll need to be ready for it. Start by focusing on what you drink during the warmer months (all year long doesn’t hurt) to help prepare your body well in advance of excessive heat waves. Sweating is your body’s way of fighting the heat, but that only works if you are already well hydrated. The first thing that hits a body overheating is dehydration, so make sure you drink plenty of water as a regular practice throughout the day. Water fortified with extra electrolytes such as potassium are available if you prefer those, but plain old water usually fits the bill just fine.

If you normally eat three meals a day, break that up five or six smaller ones to fight the natural fatigue that comes with heat. Avoid heavy, hot foods as well. (Meat and other heavy foods generate heat both when you cook them and when you digest them.) Stick with salads and fruit for something cool and satisfying.

Keeping Your Cool in the Summer Heat

Find ways to keep your body feeling fresh, especially if you must travel to and from work or school. One of the best options is to jump in the shower when you need a cool-down — just make sure the water’s not blistering hot. If you find you just need a pick-me-up while lounging around the house, an ice pack on your neck or even a bag of frozen vegetables can be refreshing!

Other ways to stay cool around the house: keep the lights off wherever possible. The bulbs generate heat, so if there are enough of them on, they can actually affect the temperature in the room. A dark room also just “feels” cooler, literally and figuratively.

A little creativity and common sense combined with the tips above will help you stay safe from the heat this summer. Stay inside when temperatures and heat indexes are highest, and pass along these tips about heat safety to those you love!