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Heat: Staying Cool in Extreme Heat

 

Even though we do not get many days of extreme heat in Maine, we do get some. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable, yet over the past 30 years more people have died in this country from heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

It is important to pay attention to weather predictions that call for extended days of high heat and humidity.

Take Protective Measures Before Extreme Heat

To prepare for extreme heat, you should:

  • Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
  • Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
  • Keep storm windows up all year.

During a Heat Emergency

The following are guidelines for what you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun. If you must go outside, protect yourself by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).
  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Drink plenty of water. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic, caffeinated and sugary beverages, since these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
  • Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
  • Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

This fact sheet developed in cooperation with the Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)

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