How to handle a heat wave: Safety tips and ways to stay cool

A young boy and a woman go down a water slide on an innertube
Rosemarie Zipoy and her grandson Connor, 6, braced for impact as they came flying out of a waterslide riding a tube Friday afternoon at the St. Louis Park Aquatic Park on Friday, when temps were in the mid-90s.
Anthony Souffle | Star Tribune

Updated: 1 p.m., June 8 | Posted: 12:20 p.m., June 7

It’s staying hot out there! A heat wave that’s been pounding Minnesota since late last week will continue over the next few days with most of the state seeing temperatures in the 90s through Thursday.

Here are some tips from the National Weather Service on staying cool and safe when you’re outside:

  • Take it slow! Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities for early morning or late evening.

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.

  • Stick to the shade — avoid direct sunlight as much as possible.

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

  • Eat cool, easy-to-digest foods like fruits or salads. And if you’re bringing lunch on the go, keep it in a cooler and don’t let meat or dairy products sit out too long. Avoid using foods that require your oven as that will make your home harder to keep cool.

  • Vehicles can go from safe to unsafe temperatures in a matter of minutes. Don’t sit in a hot car for long and never leave pets or children in a vehicle on a hot day — cracking windows is not enough.

  • Speaking of pets: Limit duration and intensity of your dogs’ outdoor exercise. Make sure your pets have access to plenty of water and shade and don’t let them stand on hot asphalt — try to time walks for early morning and late evening when it’s cooler. Find more tips from the ASPCA.

  • Wear sunscreen. Sunburns are painful and detrimental to your health. Even if you don’t get burned, prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Learn more about what kind of sunscreen to choose.

Staying cool indoors is important, too! Especially if you don’t have any air-conditioning. Here are a few tips from renewable energy expert Jen Fuller.

  • Keep cool, wet cloths handy — “My go to inside and out has been a wet bandana wrapped around my neck, wrist, or ankle to cool the blood as it circulates,” Fuller said. Shake your cloth around periodically to dissipate the heat and re-wet it as you can.

  • Keep your window shades closed during the day, and if you can, invest in some blackout shades.

  • If you do have AC, make sure it’s working properly. “Vacuum your window AC filters! And open your AC's vent to pull in fresh air periodically, but close the vent once the air temperature is cooler than outside to recirculate cool air, prevent humidity, and lower your energy costs." Here’s a troubleshooting guide.

  • “If opening windows to get fresh cross breeze isn't possible (like the past few days), close the door to rooms you're not currently using throughout the day to maximize cooling in spaces that have AC.” Once it gets cooler outside, open your windows up again.

  • Turn on kitchen and bathroom fans to exhaust hot air.

Heat exhaustion is associated with:

  • Heavy sweating

  • Cold, clammy skin

  • A fast, weak pulse

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tiredness

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness and fainting

If you experience these symptoms, get to a cool place as soon as possible, sip water, loosen your clothes and put cold wet cloth on your body to help cool down. Seek medical attention if you start vomiting or if symptoms get worse or last longer than an hour.

Heat stroke is more serious and should be treated right away. Symptoms include:

  • High body temperatures — 103 degrees or higher

  • Red, hot skin — dry or damp

  • A fast, strong pulse

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Loss of consciousness

If someone is experiencing a heat stroke, they should get medical attention right away. And in the meantime move them to a cool location, lower their body temp with a cool cloth or bath, and only give them water if the person is awake and alert enough to swallow.

Children, older adults, pregnant people and people with chronic illnesses are strongly advised to limit outdoor activities to prevent heat illnesses. Health officials encourage checking up on friends, neighbors and those without air conditioning.

Places to cool off around the Twin Cities

If you’re looking for a cool place to wait out the hottest stretches, here are links to a few interactive maps identifying libraries, recreation centers, beaches and more for Hennepin County and Ramsey County.

Ramsey County also has individual maps for libraries, beaches and pools and recreation centers.

Photos: How Minnesotans are keeping it cool

Show us how you’re beating the heat by sending a photo to tell@mpr.org or tagging @MPRNews on Twitter or Instagram.

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