Heat Emergencies & Health
people experiencing a heat wave

Heat Emergencies & Health

During a heat emergency, there is a lot at stake. Here is what you need to know to stay safe.

High Risk People

There are specific groups the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as more vulnerable to extreme heat, which include:

  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • Outdoor workers
  • Households without air conditioning
  • Infants and children
  • Individuals with chronic medical conditions
  • Athletes

In addition, Boulder County has identified the following vulnerable populations who are at risk:

  • Persons who are unhoused
  • Individuals who live in manufactured housing
  • Everyone – when temperatures rise above 105 degrees Fahrenheit

Higher-than-normal temperatures in the spring and fall can be just as concerning as 100-degree heat in the summer. Follow the instructions below to reduce the impact of heat-related illness. This is just as important in the summertime as hot spring and fall days.

Heat Illness: Signs & Symptoms

If you notice these symptoms, seek medical attention.

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Muscle Cramping
  • Fainting (passing out)
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Pale, cold and clammy skin
  • Very high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
  • Fast or rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Signs of Heat Stroke

A heat stroke requires immediate attention and can cause permanent disability or death unless it is treated immediately.

Signs include:

  • Very high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Skin appears hot to the touch or is red.
  • Fast, strong pulse.
  • Nausea, confusion or fainting.

What to do:

  • Call 911. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.
  • Immediately move the person to a cooler place.
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.
  • Do not give the person anything to drink.

Learn more about the signs & symptoms of heat illness

Prevent Heat-Related Illness

Air conditioning is the most effective way to stay safe during a heat emergency. Fans are not effective at keeping vulnerable populations safe.

In addition, you can:

  • Draw blinds in sunny windows.
  • Avoid using your oven during the day as it can make your home hotter.
  • Dress in lightweight clothing.
  • Take a cool shower or a bath.
  • Movies, malls, and museums are also safe places to stay cool.
  • Drink liquids.
    • Have water on hand at all times.
    • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar (these can be dehydrating).
    • Drink before you get thirsty.

Safety Outdoors

  • Bring water and hydrate regularly.
  • Limit your time in the sun.
  • Even with windows rolled down in a parked car, it is unsafe to leave children, pets, or people with mobility issues in a vehicle during extreme heat.
  • Rest often and pace yourself.
    • Avoid activities that require a lot of effort, energy, or carry a higher risk of injury.
    • Injuries can happen more often during heat emergencies when it’s hard to think clearly.
  • Shift outdoor activities and exercise to cooler times in the morning or evening.
  • Wear sunscreen with 30 SPF or above to avoid sunburns.
  • Wear shoes and avoid touching metal surfaces outdoors.
    • Pavement and metal surfaces can cause severe burns. Avoid older playground equipment, especially if made from metal.
    • Walking your companion animal on surfaces that are light in color, dirt and grass. Avoid blacktops And bring water even for short trips outside with your pet.
  • Watch carefully for the symptoms of heat-related illness (see above).

It’s important to note that when temperatures reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit or above, all individuals are at risk of heat-related illness.

Keep Your Companion Animal Safe

Heat strokes can also happen for dogs and cats. It happens when your animal’s body temperature rises above the normal range of 100 – 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs and cats have fewer sweat glands and therefore can’t cool off by sweating like humans.

Know the heatstroke signs:

  • Seizures
  • Sudden collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Incoordination or stumbling
  • Difficulty breathing

If you’re concerned your companion animal may have heat stroke:

  • Take steps to cool your animal down gradually; don’t dunk animals in water.
  • Move the animal to shade or a cooler air-conditioned area.
  • Even if your companion animal responds to cooling treatments, take it to see an emergency veterinarian for a check-up to ensure it hasn’t suffered irreversible damage.

In general:

  • Never leave your companion animal outside without supervision on hot days.
  • Take your dog on walks in the morning before temperatures reach dangerous levels. Avoid excessive exercise when it’s hot outside.
  • Don’t leave your animal alone in a parked car. Temperatures can quickly build to deadly levels.
  • Be mindful of dark pavement that can burn your pet’s feet. If you can’t hold your hand on the pavement for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.

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