How To Protect Yourself From 2018’s Worst Heat Wave Yet

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - JULY 20: Cars are reflected in a mirage effect on West Main Street on July 20, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma has had 28 days over 100 degrees so far this summer.

Heatwave effects in Middle America. | Brett Deering/Getty Images

The summer’s first serious, extended heatwave is here, and it isn’t going to be pretty. The streets of New York City are preparing for nearly 100-degree days while Northeastern families buckle down for the hottest temperatures they’ve seen in years. If the record-tying temps that hit Denver and Missouri are any indication, we should all be looking out — and keeping cool.

The extreme heats and neverending sun don’t just mean time at the beach and extra sunscreen: they can prove seriously dangerous for your health. We rounded up the top safety tips for the heatwave ahead as well as what to expect in the coming days.

How to prepare ahead of time:

There are a few things you can do ahead of the heatwave to put your best foot forward onto the sizzling streets. The American Red Cross recommends preparing for power outages, compiling an emergency disaster kit, and taking note of the more likely victims of excessive heat (the elderly, children, sick or overweight individuals) and how you can help.

If you or a friend don’t have air conditioning at home then identify the nearest place you can take shelter that does, like a public library or school.

How to protect yourself during a heatwave:

While it might be tough to think about getting through a heatwave workday without your morning iced coffee, you’d do well to skip it in 90-plus degree weather. Avoid caffeine, alcohol — any liquid that dehydrates you, for that matter — and replace them with two to four glasses of water an hour.

It’s important to pace yourself as well especially when it comes to physical exertion. You won’t be able to exercise as rigorously in 100-degree weather as you could in 85-degree weather, especially with no shade in sight. If the heat makes your heart pound or leaves you out of breath, quit the activity and seek shade.

It’s not a bad idea to have a friend or family member on hand who knows you’re exercising or going out in the heat. That way you have someone you can alert if you’re lightheaded or faint.

If you don’t already, wear sunscreen and sunglasses each time you leave the house and avoid maximum sun exposure.

Thermometer hot summer day

Hot summer day | Batuhan Toker/iStock/Getty Images

Treating heat-related illnesses

The three most common heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Cramps, the early sign your body is struggling in the heat, come in the form of pains and spasms in your legs or stomach. Resting, stretching the muscle, and drinking fluids with electrolytes like sports drinks or fruit juice are the best ways to treat heat cramps.

Heat exhaustion is one step up in the severity of heat-related illnesses. It commonly affects firefighters, athletes, and construction workers during a heatwave. Signs include pale, ashen, or flushed skin, nausea and dizziness, weakness, and a headache. To treat heat exhaustion, remove or loosen the person’s clothing as much as possible and cover them in wet cloths. Give them liquid in small doses. If they refuse water or have a change in consciousness, the Red Cross recommends you call 9-1-1 immediately.

Heat stroke is the rarest heat-related condition but the most life-threatening. It typically occurs when people ignore signs of heat exhaustion. Overwhelmed by the heat, the body stops functioning. Signs include high body temperature, red skin, a rapid and weak pulse, shallow breathing, change in consciousness, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. Cool the body as much as possible and call 9-1-1 immediately.

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