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How to Survive a Heat Wave

When the temperatures approach dangerous levels, you need to know how to keep cool to avoid heat-related illnesses -- and even death.


  • : People who are on fluid-restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.
  • Step 1: Stay out of the sun Stay out of the summer sun. Find shade and, if you have to be in the sun, make sure you're wearing sunscreen and a hat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunshine.
  • Step 2: Stay hydrated Drink plenty of water -- even if you're not thirsty. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks as these tend to dehydrate you.
  • Step 3: Eat right Avoid proteins and other foods that require an increased metabolic rate for your body to process. Increased metabolic heat production also increases water loss.
  • Step 4: Use cool water Take cool showers or baths, spritz yourself with cool water from a spray bottle, drape your head and neck with towels soaked in cool water, and soak your feet in cool water baths.
  • TIP: Avoid extreme temperature changes, which may make you feel nauseous or dizzy.
  • Step 5: Use air conditioning Use an air conditioner, or stay in well-ventilated rooms with fans if you don't have air conditioning. Spend the hottest part of the day -- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- in air-conditioned places such as movie theaters or shopping centers.
  • Step 6: Use cooling centers Locate a pool or cooling center in your area if you live in or near a larger city. Many municipalities use public libraries or other city buildings as cooling centers during heat waves.
  • Step 7: Avoid strenuous activity Avoid physical labor, exercise, or other strenuous activity during the hottest times of the day. If you have to perform strenuous activities, do them between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Step 8: Care for friends, neighbors, loved ones Check on the elderly, children, and people with special needs frequently during a heat wave. Now, go round up the neighborhood children, get some ice cream, and stay cool!
  • FACT: During the summer of 1896, a heat wave that lasted for 10 days killed almost 1,500 people in New York.

You Will Need

  • Shade
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Lightweight
  • light-colored clothing
  • Fluids
  • Appropriate food
  • Cool water
  • Air conditioning
  • Pool or cooling center
  • Ice cream

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