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Tuesday, October 21  •  57°Light Rain Air Quality: Green
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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Health Department
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Page updated Jun 18, 2014 10:25 AM
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How to Beat the Summer Heat 

Trying to figure out ways to beat the summer heat? Play it safe with extreme temperatures and stay indoors. If you have to be outside, be sure to stay hydrated and stay in the shade as much as possible. Consider going to your local library branch (www.alexandria.lib.va.us) to check out the latest summer reads or to your local recreation center (alexandriava.gov/RecreationCenters ) to participate in a program or a class. Check out our City pools (alexandriava.gov/Aquatics) as another way to stay cool.


Tips for Staying Cool: 

  • Drink Plenty of Fluids - Drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your pets too.
  • Limit strenuous outdoor activities and exposure to mid-day sun. If possible, stay indoors – ideally in an air-conditioned area.
  • When outdoors, stay in the shade and wear loose, light-colored clothing 
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with fragile medical conditions or pets in a parked car 
  • Monitor people around you, including co-workers, neighbors, and friends, for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke (see below). Visit people with fragile medical conditions at least twice a day.

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City Facility Links to Beat the Heat

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Information from the Centers for Disease Control

Hot Weather Health Emergencies

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels or contact local health departments for health and safety updates. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.

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Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Recognizing Heat Stroke  

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do 

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call 9-1-1 for emergency medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following: 

  • Get the victim to a shady area. 
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Sometimes a victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

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Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body's response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion  

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The skin may be cool and moist. The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure

Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What to Do 

  • Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:
  • Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • An air-conditioned environment
  • Lightweight clothing

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Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Cramps 

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs—that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to Do  

  • If medical attention is not necessary, take these steps: 
  • Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place. 
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 
  • Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

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More Information

For more information on staying safe and healthy in hot weather, go the CDC's Extreme Heat page, at: www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp 

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4480 King Street
Alexandria, VA, 22302
703.746.4996
Fax: 703.746.4938
E-mail 

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Thursday Mornings