How to Stay Cool in the Heat Wave Across the United States

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A dome of heat extending from the Midwest to the East Coast has brought dangerously high temperatures, oppressive humidity and potentially severe storms this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. It urged the public to limit sun exposure, drink water and seek cooling centers.

To show just how stifling it will be, the Omaha office of the Weather Service placed a baking tray of biscuits on a car’s dashboard on Thursday.

“Biscuits are starting to get a slightly golden tinge to them,” the meteorologists said in a Twitter post. “And after nearly 8 hours in the sun, the outside of the biscuit is actually edible. The middle is still pretty doughy though. The max temp on the pan was 185!”

Heat indexes — a measure of temperature and relative humidity — in the New York City area are expected reach 100 to 115 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

The Upper Midwest was already in the grips of the excessive heat on Friday afternoon, with a heat index of 115 degrees reported at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“Heat becomes especially dangerous if it lingers for a number of days in a row, especially if it does not drop at night and give your body a chance to cool,” Michael Schichtel, the lead forecaster at the Weather Prediction Center said in an interview last year. “It is very important to take the proper precautions.”

Here is a roundup of some tips for staying cool that we compiled last year.

Sweating is the body’s mechanism for self-cooling, but plenty of water is needed to give it something to work with. Recommendations vary between drinking two to four glasses of water every hour in excessive heat. Do not wait until you are thirsty to hydrate your body.

Diet affects how you can manage your body’s response to high temperatures.

Eat less salty food and protein, which produce metabolic heat that causes water loss. Eat more fruits and vegetables and smaller, frequent meals. Alcohol consumption can also increase the effect of heat.

The sun’s peak hours are generally 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“There are times you are going to be in the sun, but if you can avoid as much direct sunlight as possible, it is better,” Mr. Schichtel said.

“If you can pour water on exposed skin, that is going to allow your body to cool down,” Mr. Schichtel said.

Applying cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit areas can help bring down the core body temperature.

“When these parts of the body with high concentration of blood vessels near the skin come in contact with the cold, it helps transferring heat out of the body to cool down faster,” said Dr. Shubhayu Saha, a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice.

Wearing a hat protects you from direct sun; sunburns affect your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated, according to the C.D.C. And electric fans will go only so far; air-conditioners are better for keeping your body cool.

The sun’s radiation heats objects that it strikes, such as a dark dashboard or seat, warming the air trapped inside a vehicle. It takes about two minutes for a car to go from a safe temperature to an unsafe 94.3 degrees, according to General Motors and San Francisco State University, and can even reach temperatures of over 200 degrees. Here are some tips for how to keep children cool safely.

The C.D.C. lists some of the signs as dizziness, a rapid pulse, nausea, headache and fainting. But symptoms can vary. Those having heat stroke, which is potentially fatal, might have a rapid but strong pulse, while those with heat exhaustion might have a rapid but weak one.

Immediate remedies include moving the affected person to a cooler place and applying wet, cool cloths. Call 911 if there is heat stroke, vomiting or if the symptoms get worse, the C.D.C. says.


Mortality increases as the heat index rises and stays above 104 degrees for two hours or more, according to the Weather Service.