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Boreal Emergency Preparedness Portal

Tips for coping with a heat wave

Jul 17, 2022 09:34AM ● By Editor
Photo: NOAA

From the National Weather Service • July 17, 2022

What is a heat wave? A heat wave is a period of abnormally hot weather generally lasting more than two days. Heat waves can occur with or without high humidity. They have potential to cover a large area, exposing a high number of people to hazardous heat. Heat can be very taxing on the body; check out the heat related illnesses that can occur.

Extreme heat also impacts our infrastructure - from transportation to utilities to clean water and agriculture. High heat can deteriorate and buckle pavement, warp or buckle railway tracks, and exceed certain types of aircraft operational limits. Electricity usage increases as air conditioning and refrigeration units in homes and offices work harder to keep indoors cooler. Transmission capacity across electric lines is reduced during high temperatures, further straining the electrical grid. Water resources are also strained as conventional power plants require large quantities of water for cooling and crops may need increased water consumption, and people increase water consumption to stay hydrated and cool. Heat can have lasting impacts as crops may be damaged, reducing production which leads to short supply and or increased cost to the farmers and consumers.

Stay Informed: Monitor local radio and television (including NOAA Weather Radio), internet and social media for information and updates.

Outdoor Activities
  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Those particularly vulnerable to heat such as children, infants, older adults (especially those who have preexisting diseases, take certain medications, living alone or with limited mobility), those with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Minimize direct exposure to the sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
Eating and Drinking
  • Eat light, cool, easy-to-digest foods such as fruit or salads. If you pack food, put it in a cooler or carry an ice pack. Don't leave it sitting in the sun. Meats and dairy products can spoil quickly in hot weather.
  • Drink plenty of water (not very cold), non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you are on a fluid-restrictive diet or have a problem with fluid retention, consult a physician before increasing consumption of fluids. 
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.
Cooling Down
  • Use air conditioners or spend time in air-conditioned locations such as malls and libraries.
  • Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
  • Do not direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90°F. The dry blowing air will dehydrate you faster, endangering your health.
  • Take a cool bath or shower.
Check on Others
  • Check on older, sick, or frail people who may need help responding to the heat. Each year, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia.  Keep your children, disabled adults, and pets safe during tumultuous heat waves.
  • Don't leave valuable electronic equipment, such as cell phones and gps units, sitting in hot cars.
  • Make sure rooms are well vented if you are using volatile chemicals.
  • For more heat health tips, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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