Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Follow these tips to stay safe when the heat gets too hot to handle.

Summer brings lots of opportunities for outdoor fun for many people. But when the heat gets extreme, that fun can turn harmful or even life-threatening if proper precautions aren’t taken. Most heat-related health problems are preventable. A few safety steps may help you avoid a problem in the first place. When it’s extremely hot outdoors, you should keep these important tactics in mind.

Health experts say:

• Stay cool. Stay in air-conditioned areas as much as you can. Your community may offer access to air conditioned shelters for those without the ability to stay cool. Fans alone may not offer enough relief. Avoid being out in the direct sun.

• Stay hydrated. You may need to drink more water than you’re used to. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Experts recommend drinking two to four cups of water every hour when working outdoors or being active outside. Remind others to stay hydrated.

• Stay informed about the weather. Outdoor fun requires planning, so stay on top of expected weather conditions and take the right protective measures to deal with any extreme heat. Watch for weather alerts on local news reports.

What other precautions can you take?

> Avoid drinking alcohol or drinks that contain lots of sugar.

> Wear clothing that is loose, lightweight and light colored.

> Take cool showers or baths.

> Avoid using the oven or stove to cook foods, as this can make both you and your home hotter.

Who might be at special risk?

People who are most vulnerable can include seniors 65 and older, infants and children, those with certain chronic health conditions, athletes and outdoor workers. Check on these people twice a day, or more often if you think conditions warrant it.

For some people, a buddy plan might come in handy, with neighbors taking turns checking on the other. Make sure they’re protecting themselves against heat related problems.

Questions to ask

• Are they drinking plenty of water?

• Are they able to be in air-conditioned areas?

• Do they know the steps to take to stay cool?

What to watch for ?

Warning signs of heat illness are not the same in everyone. Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness.

Signs can include muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting. Other signs could be heavy sweating, feeling weak, skin that is cold, pale or clammy, or a fast or a weak pulse.

Severe symptoms can include a body temperature above 103 degrees F, skin that is hot, red, dry or moist, a quick and strong pulse, or possible unconsciousness. If these signs are present, call 911 for emergency medical assistance right away.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided a helpful overview of heat related illness and when to seek immediate help.

Go to

Scientists predict that as our climate changes, extreme heat events are likely to become more frequent, longer lasting and more severe. These occurrences should be seen as a serious public health issue.

Remember, preventive steps can help you avoid heat related problems. Take care to keep yourself or anyone you know out of harm’s way when temperatures rise to extreme levels.

Stay safe and healthy when you light up the barbecue grill

Barbecues are a favorite summer activity for many of us. But warm weather and unsafe cooking techniques can lead to food-borne illnesses. These illnesses are caused by E. coli, salmonella and other bacteria that thrive in warm weather. They can be found in raw and undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Bacteria can even be found in fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.

To keep your summer cookouts healthy and safe, remember these four guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.


Wash hands and surfaces often. Bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses can survive in many places, including your hands, utensils and cutting boards, kitchens and grills. To prevent this, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water, both before and after handling food. Also, wash all utensils, surfaces and cutting boards using hot soapy water

Separate to avoid cross-contamination.

Begin with your shopping trip. Keep raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods separate while shopping, preparing, grilling and storing to avoid spreading bacteria. Never place cooked foods on a plate, surface or cutting board that has held raw meat or poultry. Use separate cutting boards and utensils during preparation for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, and fruits and vegetables.

Cook foods to the proper temperature.

Even though a burger might look brown on the outside, it may not be cooked completely on the inside. Keep a cooking thermometer handy while grilling and check the internal temperature before taking your meat, fish and poultry off the grill. USDA guidelines recommend you cook and grill to the following internal temperatures:

• 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fish, beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops

• 160 degrees for ground beef and egg dishes

• 165 degrees for turkey, chicken and other poultry

Even pre-cooked foods like hot dogs should be heated until steaming hot or to 165 degrees.

After you take your food off the grill, use a clean platter.

Also keep grilled food at 140 degrees or above in a warm oven or slow cooker. The possibility of bacterial growth actually increases as food cools after grilling. If you partially cook or grill your meat or poultry to quicken the grill time, put them immediately on the grill. Don’t set them aside to finish cooking later.


Refrigerate or freeze cooked and prepared foods and leftovers promptly. That means within two hours or one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher. Never thaw or marinate food by leaving it on your kitchen counter. When taking cooked food to a barbecue, place it in a cooler kept at 40 degrees or cooler