7 ways to stay safe in this summer’s scorching heat

With a dangerous early-seasonheat wavegripping the West Coast and more scorching high temperatures expected throughout the summer, experts say that failing to prepare for the sweltering heat could have deadly consequences.

While heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, more than 1,200 people die from extreme heat every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here are some expert tips and recommendations for people to navigate the summer safely and enjoyably.

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A woman pours water on her face to cool off in a fountain in Domino Park, Brooklyn with the Manhattan skyline in the background as the sun sets during a heat wave on July 24, 2022. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

1. Be prepared, be aware

Preparing for the hot weather is very important, but before you can prepare you must be aware, Mark Fischer, the regional medical director for International SOS, a leading medical and security services company, tells Fox News Digital.

That means staying up to date with weather temperatures and humidity levels as well as the forecasts at your location for the hours and days ahead.

Armed with that information, people can then decipher how to plan in terms of how much water they might need throughout the day or what they need to wear and pack for a long hike.

“One of the key things is to understand what’s going on by staying in the loop, because if you’re not expecting extreme heat that could lead to you failing to prepare,”Fischer says.

2. Hydrate regularly

Keeping the body hydrated is one of the most important factors for avoiding getting a form of heat sickness. But Fischer says the timing of when you drink, and how often you take on water also play crucial roles. He says it’s important to hydrate before you go to work or exercise and then make sure you stay hydrated throughout your day.

“You want to drink before you feel thirsty [because] by the time you start to feel really thirsty, you may be behind your needs the requirements,” Fischer says.

“When you’re working in the heat, drinking a cup, or eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes is prudent. If you drink way too much, then that can also cause a type of electrolyte issues, so you want to be appropriate in terms of your hydration.”

The CDC recommends not drinking more than 48 ounces per hour because the concentration of salt in the blood can become too low.

A woman buys a bottle of water during a heat wave in Central Park on July 27, 2023, in New York City. Keeping the body hydrated is one of the most important factors to avoid getting a form of heat sickness, experts say. ( Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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“And some people use sport drinks but you’ve got to be careful because some energy drinks may contain sugar or caffeine,” Fischer says.

The CDC says that high caffeine levels can be risky when added to the strain placed on your body by heat.

Alcohol, Fischer says, can also cause dehydration and heat ailments can easily occur on warm days while people are enjoying the sun with some social drinks.

He says those going on long hikes or walks this summer should also plan appropriately by calculating how long they expect to be out in the sun and gauging how much water they will need.

The CDC recommends people carry reusable water bottles with them throughout the day and to choose water over sugary drinks.

3. Dress appropriately

The right clothing is also a preventive measure and so wearing light clothes with loose fittings is recommended, Fischer says. He advises wearing light colored clothing – as opposed to dark colors like black – since it reflects sunlight and thus absorbs less heat. Black clothing absorbs sunlight, making the clothing warmer to wear.

Underdressing may also expose your body and skin to excess heat, leading to sunburn. However, Fischer says that sun lotion will not protect you from heat ailments like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

He also says try to get to cool areas like air-conditioned places as much as possible, in order to reduce body temperature.

A heat wave is gripping the west with more high temperatures forecast. (iStock)

4. Recognize the symptoms

Overexposure to the sun can lead to a variety of illnesses and injuries, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Fischer says it’s important to be aware of these symptoms, so you recognize if you or members of your party succumb to them.

Heat stroke is one of the most dangerous ailments from heat and symptoms include very high body temperatures, seizures, hot and dry skin or profuse sweating, as well as confusion, blurred speech and loss of consciousness.

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“Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and is usually caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures and when that occurs your body’s cooling mechanism fails,” Fischer says. “Your body’s temperature rises to incredibly dangerous levels — and it can happen fast. Heat stroke can cause death, it can cause permanent disability and emergency treatment is absolutely required.”

Other ailments people can suffer include heat exhaustion, which can be identified with dizziness, weakness, nausea elevated body temperature and decreased urine output.

Syncope, is fainting caused by low blood pressure and heat cramps, which are painful muscles caused by salt imbalances due to sweating.

People can also suffer with rashes, a form of skin irritation, as well as sunburn, something many people are familiar with. Sunburn is characterized by red, painful skin due to overexposure and severe cases of sunburn can be accompanied by swelling of the skin, blisters and fever.

“Symptoms like fatigue or headache or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, increased thirst, feeling like you’re going to pass out, are all obviously signs that things are getting serious,” Fischer says.

The mercury level on a thermometer breaking 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (iStock)

5. Know who is most at risk

Everyone can be affected by high temperatures, but some people are more at risk than others, Fischer says.

Elderly people do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperatures since they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. They are also more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat, the CDC says.

The CDC urges parents and guardians to never leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open. On average, 38 children die each year from heatstroke inside a vehicle, according todata from advocacy group Kids and Car Safety.

Infants and children should be dressed in loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing and be given plenty of fluids.

Fischer says those planning on exercising outdoors should also make modifications to the weather, since the heat places greater strains on the body, and it requires extra hydration.

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6. Know how to react to heat illness

Heat illness can strike quickly and if it does, the CDC recommends you stop working, get cool and drink fluids. When treating severe heat illness, cooling is the first priority.

The CDC says that heat stroke should be considered an emergency and a call for emergency care should be made immediately. In the meantime, a person should be moved to a cool area and their clothing should be removed. If possible, immerse the person in a tub of ice water and if one is not available, then it is recommended the person be placed in a tarp with ice and water.

If that is not possible, then soak the person in cold water from a hose or shower and apply cold, wet towels to as much of the skin as possible.

For someone with heat exhaustion, medical help should also be sought, and the person should be taken from the hot area and given plenty of liquids and cooled down with water, an ice bath or fans.

For less severe symptoms like heat syncope, a person should sit or lie down in a cool place and slowly drink water or clear juice. Heat cramps can be tackled by drinking fluids every 15 to 20 minutes and avoiding taking salt tablets, but drinks with electrolytes are fine, the CDC says.

Heat rashes or prickly heat should be treated with ointments or creams.

A paramedic treats a man experiencing heat exposure during a heat wave in Salem, Oregon, in 2021. 

7: Tips for being in other parts of the world

Fischer says that all prevention rules apply when out in the heat abroad, but extra precautions should be heeded too.

Being unfamiliar with your surroundings and/or being in a place where English is not spoken could add more challenges to dealing with the heat. Should the unfortunate happen, Fischer says knowing how to react can save critical time.

He says that people should always plan on how they can access medical care should they need it. For instance, in Europe, the emergency number to dial is typically 999 or 112, as opposed to 911 in the U.S.

Additionally, the main water supplies may not be safe in other parts of the world, so Fischer says using bottled and not relying on local water if it is not up to a safe standard.

“Keeping hydrated from a safe water supply is incredibly important and making sure you have reliable information,” Fischer says. Being able to quickly access that information, understanding how to navigate the health care system and having a resource to say, well, what do I do next?”

Michael Dorgan is a writer for Fox News Digital and Fox Business.

You can send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @M_Dorgan.

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