Protect yourself from heat

by Kaiser Permanente |
A smiling woman drinks water outdoors

When temperatures get uncomfortably high, you and your loved ones face an increased risk for heat-related illness. Fortunately, there are several tips you can use to help keep yourself cool and healthy during an intense heat wave.

Symptoms to look out for

The first step is to empower yourself by learning about how to spot a serious heat-related illness. By identifying heat reactions quickly, you’ll be better able to treat yourself and your loved ones.

Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include fatigue, headache, confusion, dizziness, cramping, and nausea.

Heatstroke: Symptoms include severe headache, rapid heartbeat, rapid/shallow breathing, seizures, vomiting, unconsciousness, and skin that is flushed, hot, and dry.

If you develop heatstroke symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

While these conditions would be serious for anyone, older adults, small children, and people with certain medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

Tips to stay cool, safe, and healthy

When an intense heat wave hits, these tips can help you minimize the effects on yourself and others.

Stay hydratedWater helps your body maintain a normal temperature. It also helps you sweat, which cools your body down.

Stay in an air-conditioned space, if available. It’s the easiest way to keep you and your family cool during a heat wave.

Limit outdoor activity. If you have to go outside, try to aim for early morning or just before sunset.

Cool water works faster than cool air. If you need to cool down quickly, apply cool water to your face and neck, or soak your hands and feet. 

Check the weather forecast. Heat waves caused by weather patterns like the Santa Ana winds can bring high nighttime temperatures, too. Keeping track will help you prepare.

Ice packs and cold compresses can help in extreme conditions. Apply to your wrists, your upper chest, your upper back, or the base of your neck.

Freeze towels or washcloths for your bed. If you have trouble sleeping in the heat, lying on a frozen towel or washcloth will help lower your body temperature.

If you don’t have air conditioning, use fans to cool your home. Remember these hints to make the most of your fan(s).

  • Even though a fan can spread hot air around, the moving air will still cool you by evaporating any sweat or water on your skin.
  • Many people find cross-ventilation helpful. You can achieve this by setting up 2 fans on opposite sides of the room. If you can, place them in front of open windows or doorways.
  • Place a shallow bowl of ice water in front of a fan. The fan’s air current will speed evaporation, cooling the air just above the bowl. The fan will distribute this cooler air throughout the room.