Hot, Hot, Hot: What to Do When There’s an Excessive Heat Warning

Excessive Heat Warning

There’s hot, and then there’s too hot.

Many of us look forward to summer’s arrival, but some summer days go past “uncomfortable” to flat-out dangerous, with heat so high that staying outside becomes unadvisable.

It’s something we think about a lot as HVAC contractors, and not just because hot weather means a busier time for the air conditioner repair world.

Our team is working in this weather too, and we need to know how to keep ourselves safe. With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of tips from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security on how to prepare and protect yourself during a heat emergency.

Preparing for a heat emergency

Is the forecast calling for extreme heat? Make sure you’re ready by:

  • Scoping out places in your area you can go to cool off.
  • Keeping your home cool by covering windows with shades or drapes, using attic fans, installing window conditioners, and adding weather stripping and insulation. Talk to your local HVAC contractors about other methods for cooling your home.
  • Researching the signs of heat-related illnesses

How to spot heat-related illnesses

According to the CDC, two factors affect our ability to cool down during extremely hot days. First, there’s humidity. It keeps our sweat from evaporating, which prevents our bodies from releasing heat.

Then there are personal factors like age, obesity, heart disease and drug and alcohol use, all of which can determine our ability to cool off.

People at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses include senior citizens, children two and under and people with chronic or mental illnesses. But anyone might fall prey to heat related illnesses. Here’s how you can spot and respond to them.

Drink sports drinks when it is really hot

Heat cramps

  • Signs – Symptoms of heat cramps include pains or spasms in the stomach, arms and legs.
  • Treatment – You can treat these by getting to a cooler location, removing excess clothing, and taking sips of cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar. Seek medical help if cramps last more than an hour.

Heat exhaustion

Ice pack in extreme heat
  • Signs — Symptoms include heavy sweating, pale skin, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, vomiting or fainting.
  • Treatment – Get to a cool, air-conditioned space and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Sip cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Seek medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

Heat stroke

  • Signs – Symptoms of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature – more than 103 degrees – taken orally – red, hot and dry skin but no sweating; strong, rapid pulse; dizziness or confusion; unconsciousness.  
  • Treatment – This is the most serious of heat-related illnesses. Call 911 or get the person to the hospital right away. Use whatever methods you can to cool them down until help arrives.

When the warning is issued

During an excessive heat warning, you should:

  • Stay somewhere with air conditioning. This can include libraries, community centers and malls if you don’t have AC at home.
  • Keep an eye out for heat-related illness, including heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. Shade yourself with a hat wide enough to protect your face.
  • Check on neighbors and family members
  • Stay hydrated. If you – or a loved one – requires a special diet, talk to your doctor about the best way to accommodate it
  • Never leave anyone – people or pets – inside a closed car
  • Avoid using electric fans when temperatures rise above 95, as this could increase the risk for illness. While fans create airflow, they don’t help lower your body temperature.

What if I HAVE to be outside?

Again, we understand. As HVAC contractors, we don’t always get to pick when and where we can work, and sometimes, jobs have us outside on sweltering days.

If you know you’ll need to be outside on one of these days, follow these tips to stay cool:

  • Apply sunscreen and wear a hat
  • Drink cold drinks and eat cold meals (salads, fruits)
  • Try to wear loose, light-colored clothes made from natural materials like cotton
  • If you can, try to work earlier or later in the day, before or after the sun is at its peak

You’ll notice that a lot of this advice centers on spending time in cool, air conditioned spaces. If you’re worried your home won’t be cool enough when a heat wave hits, it’s time to speak with All Seasons Comfort Control.

Our HVAC contractors can perform maintenance on your HVAC system and examine your home to determine where you might be losing cool air, making sure you’re at your coolest – and safest – the next time extreme heat hits.