Extreme heat dangers and safety tips: What you need to know

Hundreds die each year in the U.S. due to excessive heat, according to the CDC.

ByEmily Shapiro ABCNews logo
Friday, July 22, 2022
How to survive a prolonged heat wave
AccuWeather has tips for making it through a prolonged heat wave.

A heat wave is gripping the U.S., with dangerously high temperatures in the West, South and Northeast. Meanwhile, deadly heat is slamming Europe, with the United Kingdom breaking its record Tuesday for highest temperature ever.

Doctors recommend taking excessive heat warnings seriously. There are hundreds of deaths each year in the U.S. due to excessive heat, according to CDC WONDER, and scientists caution the actual number of heat-related deaths is likely higher.

Heat-related illness happens when the body is not able to properly cool itself, causing damage to the brain and the rest of the body.

Here are tips to stay safe from the heat from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Wear sunscreen

Take precautions to prevent sunburn, which can make you dehydrated and affect your ability to cool down.

Use sunscreen that's SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside. Sunscreens that say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" are best.

We all know sunscreen is important to protect us from the sun's rays, but not everyone knows how much sunscreen is best.

Stay hydrated

Drink extra fluids, and don't wait until you're thirsty.

Avoid very sugary drinks and alcohol, which can cause your body to lose more fluid, and be wary of extra-cold drinks that may cause stomach cramps.

Avoiding hot and heavy meals also can reduce your body's overall temperature.

Limit time outside

Cut down on exercise during heat waves and rest often and in shady areas.

Try to limit your time outside to when it is cooler, like in the early morning and evening.

People who work outdoors or in hot environments, such as landscapers or food services workers, should take extra precautions during heat waves.

Check the car

Never leave children in a parked car -- even if windows are cracked open.

Monitor high-risk loved ones

Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness at any time, but these people are at greater risk:

  • Babies and young children
  • Overweight people
  • Those 65 years old or older
  • People who overexert during work or exercise
  • Those who suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure and those who take certain medications, including for depression, insomnia or poor circulation

Watch for signs of illness

According to the CDC, "heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person's body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs."

Symptoms of heat stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness.

If a person's body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the result is a heat stroke. When a person has a heat stroke, they are no longer sweating, but their skin is flushed.

Without emergency treatment, the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles can be damaged, and it can even lead to death.

Symptoms include:

  • Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Passing out
  • No longer sweating

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Before someone has a heat stroke, they get overheated and experience heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is more common during and after long periods of exercise.

Symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Headache
  • Passing out

If someone shows symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, call 911, move them somewhere cooler and use towels to cool down their body.

Don't forget about your furry friends!

Here are some tips from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for how to keep your pets safe in the heat: provide plenty of fresh water so they don't get dehydrated; don't over-exercise pets; never leave pets alone in a parked car; and watch for symptoms of overheating, which include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate and drooling.

Animals with flat faces, like pugs, can't pant as well and are more at risk of heat stroke. These pets, as well as older and overweight pets, should be kept inside as much as possible.

ABC Owned TV Stations contributed to this report.