How To Stay Safe And Cool In Extreme Heat

Summer is barely underway, but temperatures in the U.S. are already reaching levels dangerous to human health.

Of course, it’s always hotter in summer. But it’s extremely unusual for there to be such high temperatures — for such prolonged periods — so early in the season. Last week, it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit in Omaha, Neb., 118 in Phoenix and 123 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Climate experts and meteorologists are concerned that these “heat domes” will continue to become more common as the Earth heats up.

Even now, about 700 people in the U.S. die each year from heat-related exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So as summer unfolds, it’s important for people to keep cool and protect themselves from the extreme heat.

To get a sense of how to do that and what to look for, NPR’s All Things Considered spoke with Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, about which groups are most at risk, the early symptoms of heat-related illness and what cities and individuals can do to mitigate the risks.

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Trees Are Key To Fighting Urban Heat — But Cities Keep Losing Them
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Who is most at risk?
Older adults tend to be most at risk for heat exposure, Dahl says.

“As you become older, your body has more trouble regulating your temperature, and so adults have a harder time shedding the heat that accumulates in their bodies when it’s extremely hot outside,” she says.

“Often when we are young and healthy and strong, it’s harder to listen to those early signals of heat illness that your body’s trying to give you,” Dahl says. “And so we do, unfortunately, every year see people who are otherwise fit and healthy passing away due to extreme heat exposure because they’re exerting themselves outside and not taking those precautions of reducing their exercise and staying indoors and keeping cool.”

If you are experiencing early symptoms of heat-related illness, it’s important to rest and hydrate.

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