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Extreme heat

Extreme heat

Compared to the rest of the country, summers in the Pacific Northwest are usually very comfortable. However, when temperatures rise to dangerous levels for several days at a time, there is an increased health risk to people and pets, and fire risk to property.

Common heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body has difficulty cooling itself. When the body's temperature cannot be regulated, heat stroke occurs.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • heavy sweating
  • weakness
  • cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • weak pulse
  • fainting
  • vomiting

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • high body temperature (103° F or higher)
  • hot, dry skin
  • rapid and strong pulse
  • possible unconsciousness

Individuals who are at higher risk of heat-related illness include:

  • older adults
  • infants and young children
  • people who work or exercise outdoors
  • users of certain medications

Be watchful for the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and intervene quickly to prevent heat stroke.

Heat related illness prevention

  • Drink lots of fluids (avoid caffeine, alcohol, and high sugar drinks). Carry a water bottle.

  • Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked care, even if the windows are cracked open.

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

  • Stay indoors and, if possible, in an air conditioned place (shopping mall, library, theater, etc).

  • Protect yourself from the sun with a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

  • Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening.

  • Rest often in shady areas during the heat of the day.

  • Check on at-risk family, friends, and neighbors twice a day.

Water safety

  • Use caution in and around open water. Many lakes and rivers are quite cold, and that can sap even strong swimmers’ strength in a matter of minutes. Low flows can also expose previously submerged rocks and branches that pose dangers to river users.

  • Wear a personal flotation device (life jacket).

  • Avoid alcohol.

  • Apply sunscreen frequently.

  • Learn more about water safety and drowning prevention. Take the American Red Cross Summer Swim Safety Quiz.

Wildfire prevention

It can take only a few sunny days for forests to dry out enough to catch fire. In windy conditions, wildfires can get out of control quickly. Before wildfire strikes, protect lives and property by creating a fire-adapted space around your home, shed, and business. Get tips for reducing fire risks from Firewise.

Treating heat exhaustion

  • Cool the person down by having them sit in the shade.

  • Pour cool water over the skin.

  • Place a cold, wet towel on the back of the person's neck.

  • Have the person sip cool water or Gatorade. (Not too fast, since vomiting will increase dehydration.)

  • If the signs and symptoms do not improve within an hour, or if they get worse in spite of your efforts, the person may have heat stroke. In such cases call 9-1-1.

Treating heat stroke

  • Call 9-1-1.

  • Have the person rest in a cool shady place.

  • Have them sip a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade, if they are able.

  • Wet their skin with cool water, wet towels, or wet sheets. Place ice packs in the armpits, around the neck, and in the groin.

  • Have a fan blowing directly at the person if possible.

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