Extreme Heat


Generally, extreme heat is defined by temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods of time, and are accompanied by high humidity.

High temperatures, along with high humidity, can cause heat-related illnesses which range in severity from mild heat cramps, to heat exhaustion, to potentially life-threatening heatstroke. 


Heat Cramps

  • Painful, involuntary muscles spasms. They may occur during heavy exercise and are often caused by dehydration.
  • Signs and Symptoms: Spasms that feel like nighttime leg cramps, only more severe. They often occur in the abdomen and back.


  • Cool down and rest.
  • Drink an electrolyte-containing sports drink or clear juice
  • Gently stretch and massage the affected muscles
  • Call your doctor if your cramps don’t go away in one hour


  • Exhaustion that begins suddenly and is sometimes caused by heavy exercise, sweating and dehydration.
  • Signs and Symptoms: Low blood pressure
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Low-grade fever
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak heartbeat


  • Move the person to a shady area
  • Lay them down and keep their legs and feet slightly elevated
  • Loosen or remove their clothing
  • Give them cool water (not iced) or a sports drink containing electrolytes to drink
  • Fan the person and spray or sponge them down with cool water
  • Remember: Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke. If fever greater than 102˚F, fainting, confusion or seizures occur, dial 9-1-1


A potentially life-threatening, heat-related problem that often results from heavy work and dehydration. The body’s normal mechanisms for dealing with heat stress, such as sweating and temperature control, stop working. Older adults, people who are obese and people born with a physical disability are at greatest risk.

  • SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Body temperature, generally greater than 104˚F, with changes in mental status like confusion and even coma
  • Skin may be hot and dry, although in heat strokes caused by exertion, the skin is usually moist
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Sweating stops
  • Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness
  • Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults


  • Move the person into the shade or air-conditioned space
  • Dial 9-1-1
  • Wrap the person with damp sheets or spray them with cool water


  • Protect your home from extreme heat.
  • Install high-performance windows and sunshades.
  • Check the condition of your air conditioning and ventilation systems.
  • Insulate your home.
  • Plan ahead to ensure your home and workplace are prepared for a potential loss of power. Have emergency supplies on hand in case of an outage. If you lose power, notify your utility provider immediately.


  • Stay Informed and Connected: Listen to local weather forecasts and announcements from officials. 
  • Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car during periods of intense summer heat.
  • Help Your Neighbors: Check on your neighbors virtually or over the phone during a heat wave, especially if they are older adults, young children, and people with disabilities and access and functional needs. Keep in touch by phone at least twice a day during heat waves. Air conditioning is the best way to stay safe and healthy when it is hot outside, but some vulnerable people do not have an air conditioner or do not turn it on when they need it. Encourage them to use air conditioning. Help them get to an air-conditioned place if they cannot stay cool at home. Make sure they are drinking enough water.
  • Protect your pets and service animals when extreme heat strikes: Never leave pets in the car. Temperatures rise quickly even with the windows down and can be deadly for your pet. Call 911 if you see a pet or child in a hot car. Be sure your pets have access to plenty of water, especially when it's hot. Make sure your pet has plenty of shady places to go when outdoors. Avoid exercising with your pet outside on extremely hot days. Be sure your pet or service animal has plenty of food and water.
  • Protect Your Health – Stay Cool: Use an air conditioner during hot weather and heat emergencies, even if it is only for a few hours. A setting of 78 degrees F (or low cool) can provide a comfortable environment, help save on electricity bills, and conserve energy. If possible, stay out of the sun. When in the sun, wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect your face and head. If you do not have an air conditioner, keep rooms well-ventilated with open windows and fans.
  • Drink fluids — particularly water — even if you do not feel thirsty.* (*People with heart, kidney or liver disease, or on fluid restricted diets should check with their doctors before increasing fluid intake.)
  • Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the sun's peak hours – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must engage in strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Cool showers or baths may be helpful but avoid extreme temperature changes. Never take a shower immediately after becoming overheated – extreme temperature changes may make you ill, nauseated, or dizzy.
  • If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, stay in an area where it is cool and the air is filtered or air-conditioned.
  • Conserve Power: Power outages are most likely to happen during the hot summer months when utility usage is at its peak. During periods of intense electrical usage, such as on hot, humid days, it is important to conserve as much energy as possible.

Additional Resources:


Ready National Public Service Campaign
American Red Cross
Westchester County Department of Health

Infograph sharing information on extreme heat and safety tips
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