Those of you who think a 95°F day is sweltering will be shocked at the actual definition of excessive heat. When a heat advisory is issued in North Carolina, it means there will be one to two days in a row where the daytime temperature will be between 100°-105°F. But it doesn’t stop there; in NC, an excessive heat warning is given when temperatures are expected to exceed 105°F.

These temperatures are more than uncomfortable; they’re dangerous. Continue reading to learn how to stay cool in heat waves and how to tell if you have a heat-related illness emergency.

Signs of Heat Sickness

There are five types of heat-related sicknesses, including sunburn and heat rash, but only one of them requires immediate medical attention 100% of the time: heat stroke. You can differentiate heat stroke from other heat exhaustion by these distinct symptoms:

  • A body temperature at or above 103°F
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Confusion

For heat exhaustion, you may observe the following:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness

When in doubt, always seek professional medical help. And to prepare for such an emergency, read this guide from the CDC.

Avoid the Sun During Hottest Parts of the Day

When there is a heat warning in your area, it’s essential you seek shade or stay indoors when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. In most places, this is between 12 PM and 4 PM, although during extreme heat, you can see the temperature climb earlier and stay high past dusk.

If you must be outside, it’s advised that you take plenty of breaks in the shade or indoors with an AC to avoid overheating. You can also put this tip to good use inside your home by keeping the drapes closed on sun-facing windows or using reflective materials (such as a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum) to bounce sunlight and heat away from your home.

Drink Plenty of Water

The number one thing you can do to prevent heat sickness, besides avoiding the heat, is to stay hydrated. This is because, during extreme heat, your body can lose about 3 liters of fluids in just one hour, making it easy to dehydrate. To avoid this, the rule of thumb is to drink about 2 liters of water a day and not wait until you’re totally parched before you grab that drink.

You can tell if you’re dehydrated by the color of your urine (dark) and the elasticity of your skin (it should bounce right back after a pinch.)

Cool Your Body Strategically

Inside you is a vast network of veins and arteries that circulate blood throughout your body. You can use this system to your advantage by cooling down the most exposed or efficient places on your person. For example, soaking your hands and feet in water baths or ice will help keep you cool and comfortable.

And for the most efficient location, try putting a frozen water bottle between your thighs and put your femoral artery to work in lowering your body temperature.

Prepare for the Outdoors

Another critical piece of knowing how to stay cool in heat waves is learning how to dress appropriately. Since the closer a color is to white, the better it reflects heat and light, avoiding dark colors is key when outfit planning. You should aim for light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and don’t forget a hat to protect your head from the direct sun- bonus points for a wide-brimmed hat that protects your face and neck too.

Another thing to keep in mind is that sunburn is not an inherent part of being outside; it’s a heat-related illness. So avoid it by being proactive and applying sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going out. Experts say that you should use one with an SPF of at least 15, and you’ll need about one teaspoon of sunscreen for each body section (torso, back, arms, legs, etc.) and possibly more, depending on your size.

Optimize the Temperature Indoors

The primary way to escape hot weather is by controlling the temperature in your own domain.

This is especially true at night when during heat waves, nighttime temperatures rarely dip low enough for a safe and comfortable sleep. Studies have shown that heat exposure at night increases wakefulness and interrupts deep sleep and REM cycles. And in the long term, sleeping in spaces that aren’t conducive to restoration can lead to a greater risk of developing diabetes or heart problems.

The most efficient way to avoid this is to use an HVAC system sized for your space. There are also state-of-the-art systems, like ductless units, where you can control the cool in individual rooms, a boon for energy savings.

Remember: Fans Aren’t Recommended for Extreme Heat

Fans are a ubiquitous part of summer, but during a heat wave, they can do more harm than good. Normally, the fan works in tandem with your sweat to cool off your skin. However, when the temperature exceeds 95°F, your sweat is performing more efficiently than the fan, which at this point would just be blowing hot air on you.

And, like all electronics, your fan produces a small amount of heat as it operates. This is no big deal in regular temperatures, but when you’re already at risk for overheating, even a few decimal points make all the difference.

Learning How to Stay Cool in a Heat Wave Can Save Your Life

Knowing how to stay cool in a heat wave is an essential skill that can keep you and your loved ones safe. Of course, you should plan to employ all of these tips together, but remember, the best long-term solution is to have a high-efficiency air conditioning unit in your home. It’s the only way to ensure you have a safe haven to return to when nighttime temps stay high.

At Unique Air HVAC, we’re a family-run operation and are proud to serve all of Lincoln and Gaston counties. We provide expert service to our customers, who we treat like they’re a part of the family.

Contact us today to request information or schedule an HVAC installation.