Extreme Heat

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Temperatures in Oregon have been quite warm lately, which is unusual for our part of the country. Highs have even reached and exceeded 100 degrees on a few days.  It's important to know what you can do to keep yourself cool during high temperatures. Also important is being able to recognize the signs of heat-related injuries.

Heat injures or kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body works extra hard to maintain its normal temperature. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exerted themselves. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight should take particular care in times of extreme heat.

Before Extreme Heat
  • 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.) Install temporary window reflectors 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. Keep storm windows up all year.
During Extreme Heat
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Stay on the lowest floor if air conditioning is not available.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
  • 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.
  • 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 beverages.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend their time alone.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
Know the Terms
  • Heat Cramps: Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Heat cramps are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
  • Heat Stroke (also Sun Stroke): A life-threatening condition. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
Signals of Heat Emergencies
  • Heat exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heat stroke: Hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high-- as high as 105 degrees F. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry.



The Hazard-Specific Information section was created using information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross.