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How to Stay Safe During an Extreme Heat Wave

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This week, the Southwestern United States has experienced the first significant heat wave of the year, bringing with it intense temperatures in the triple digits that have affected big cities like Las Vegas and set records in other places like San Angelo, Texas.

According to Accuweather, the scorching heat will affect California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming through Friday. In order to prevent heat-related illnesses and fatalities, Phoenix firefighters are introducing new techniques this year, such as ice immersion, so local officials are already gearing up for a devastating heat wave.

Rising temperatures put Americans at serious risk: according to the National Weather Service, excessive heat ranks as the leading cause of climate-related deaths in the country. People who live in low-income areas are disproportionately affected by this issue, according to a study that was published in the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

That issue might only get worse with time. The hottest year on record occurred last year, and some experts believe 2024 may be even hotter due to the acceleration of climate change brought on by increased carbon emissions.

While California is still getting over its biggest wildfire of the season, this heat wave also follows another natural disaster. “The Corral Fire is now California’s first 10,000-acre fire of the year,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham stated. “There will probably be more fires starting this week that can spread quickly because of the heat, dryness, and sunshine.”

Here are some tips for staying safe during a heat wave:

Avoid being outside as much as you can:

In times of intense heat, locals should try to stay inside as much as possible. Experts advise exercising outside during the cooler hours of the morning and evening when the temperature is at its lowest. During instances of high heat, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that people stay inside air-conditioned buildings, such as public libraries or shopping malls. According to FEMA, even a few hours in air conditioning can keep your body cooler when you return to the heat.

Keep your body safe:

People should dress in loose, lightweight clothing in light colors to stay cool. According to the University of California, staying hydrated is essential for coping with the heat, but sunscreen is also crucial since it helps people control their body temperature.

Maintain a cool home:

Even without air conditioning, people may still keep their homes cool. However, moving to an air-conditioned location should be their top priority. The most effective ways to achieve this, according to experts, are to use blackout curtains, put plants that can absorb sunlight, or shade your property from the outside employing strategies. According to experts who previously spoke with TIME, it could be wise to think about buying ceiling fans with large paddles or utilizing insulated glass or low-e glass to help block off heat. Fans lose their effectiveness, though, when the temperature rises into the nineties.

People who spend a lot of time in the heat run the danger of contracting several heat-related ailments, such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, and more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that heat stroke is the most dangerous of them and that it can be lethal. Confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, perspiration, seizures, and elevated body temperatures are among the symptoms.

In addition to headaches and nausea, other heat-related illnesses might also result in overall weakness. If you think the heat is affecting you or someone you know, it’s critical to get medical attention. It can be helpful to try to chill the individual by soaking their clothes in cool water, giving them an ice bath, or applying cold, wet cloths to their skin. Due to their increased susceptibility to heat-related illnesses, it is particularly crucial to exercise caution around the elderly, pregnant women, people with preexisting medical issues, and small children.

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