As summer temperatures begin to rise, keeping your family and pets safe should be your top priority. If you live in a climate that experiences snow and cold temperatures, the summer heat is usually welcomed. However, all too often we see headlines about how extreme heat can be deadly.
According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 666 people die annually in the U.S. because of heat-related reasons. While many people take precautions for extremely cold temperatures, we may forget to take precautions when it’s extremely hot. Here are some things you should know about extreme heat and what you can do to protect your family and pets.
Understand heat related alerts
Like many other weather events, understanding the different terminology can be crucial to staying safe.
Excessive heat warning. If this warning is issued, act immediately. This warning is usually issued within 12 hours of when the heat index temperature is expected to be 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for a minimum of two days with evening temperatures at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Excessive heat watch. This watch is issued if excessive heat is expected within 24 to 72 hours. The timing of this heat event could change causing the watch time to change.
Heat advisory. Like an excessive heat warning, the advisory is usually issued within 12 hours of an event. However, the heat index temperature is expected to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for a minimum of two days.
Excessive heat outlooks. Outlooks are issued when there could be an excessive heat event in three to seven days.
Remember, excessive heat and cold are equally dangerous. Please keep an eye on watches and warnings for your area.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
Nothing beats keeping the windows open and enjoying a nice summer breeze or a round of golf. However, when temperatures become extreme, it’s important to stay cool to avoid heat-related illnesses.
Here are some symptoms of heat exhaustion:
Dark-colored urine
Muscle or abdominal cramps
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Pale skin
Profuse sweating
Rapid heartbeat
If any of these symptoms become present while spending time outdoors, get into an air-conditioned room or car immediately.
Symptoms of heat stroke
Prolonged exposure or physical activity in high temperatures can cause your body to overheat, leading to severe complications. If left untreated, heat stroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles.
Here are some symptoms of heat stroke:
Throbbing headache
Dizziness and light-headedness
Lack of sweating
Red, hot, and dry skin
Muscle weakness or cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Rapid heartbeat
Rapid, shallow breathing
Confusion, disorientation, or staggering
Tips for you and your family
1. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated year-round is important, but especially during the hot summer months. The amount of water you need can differ from what other people need, depending on activity level and body type. To stay properly hydrated, consider drinking 68-135 ounces of water per day. If you don’t like water or it’s difficult to drink, consider adding a flavor packet to it.
2. Reschedule outdoor activities. The hottest time of the day is between 11:00am and 3:00pm. Avoid participating in strenuous activities during this time. Consider venturing outdoors earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
3. Stock up on supplies. Make sure you have plenty of food, water, and medications. You may not realize this, but because so many air conditioning units are running, power outages can occur more frequently. Severe thunderstorms aren’t the only way to lose power during the summer months.
4. Watch for signs of heat-related illnesses.
5. Check on elderly parents or neighbors.

6. Wear appropriate clothing. Wear light, cool, and loose-fitting clothing. Also consider wearing a hat and sunglasses.
7. Never leave children in a parked car. It can take as little as 10 minutes for a car to reach deadly temperatures.
8. Keep the heat out. Close the blinds or the pull the shades in your home to keep the heat out. In your car, if you have a moon roof, close the interior cover and consider putting a sunshade in your front window. If you don’t have a sunshade, consider buying a steering wheel sun cover to prevent your steering wheel from becoming too hot to touch.
Tips for your pets
1. Limit outdoor activities. Take them for a walk or to the dog park in the early morning or evening hours. Or reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. If your normal walk routine is 30 minutes, cut it to 20 minutes on hot days.
2. Protect your dogs’ paws. Concrete, sand, and asphalt can get very hot. Avoid taking them on these surfaces during the peak time of the day or buy them proper paw ware.
3. Consider buying cooling products. A cooling wrap, vest, or mat may provide nice relief. Fans don’t provide as much relief for pets as they do for us.
4. Never leave pets in a parked car. When running errands, no matter how much they whine, consider leaving them at home. A car can get dangerously hot even with the windows cracked.
5. Provide access to plenty of water.
6. Be on the lookout for signs of overheating. There are a couple of things to be aware of regarding how our pets cool off. First, pets sweat mainly through their feet. Panting takes heat out of their bodies. Excessive panting, difficulty breathing, and drooling may occur if they’re overheating.