Extreme Heat

thermostat outside on a very hot day

Extreme heat is responsible for the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. Most heat problems occur because the person has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for their age and physical condition.  

Who is at greatest risk for extreme heat-related illness? 

Older adults, young children and sick or overweight individuals.  

What are the signs of heat-related illness? 

Heat Stroke
  • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F) taken orally  
  • Red, hot and dry skin with no sweat 
  • Rapid, strong pulse 
  • Dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness
Heat Cramps
  • Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs 

Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, fast or weak pulse, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea, vomiting 


  • Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches

What should I do if someone is experiencing a heat-related illness? 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. It’s also helpful to know the best ways to respond to each type of heat-related illness. CLICK HERE for more information.  

How can I prepare for extreme heat?  

  • Get trained in first aid and learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.  
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay alert about upcoming temperature changes. 
  • Make an emergency kit and family communications plan. 
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device. Instead, install window air conditioners and insulate around them. 
  • Identify public places in your community where you can go to get cool (libraries, malls, cooling centers, etc.) 
  • Cover windows with drapes/shades, weather-strip doors and windows, and check home for proper insulation.  
  • Use window reflectors specifically designed to reflect heat back outside. 
  • Use a powered attic ventilator, or attic fan, to regulate the heat level of a building’s attic by clearing out hot air. 
  • If you are unable to afford your cooling costs, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, the Crisis Intervention Program may be able to help.  
  • The Operation Fan Heat Relief Program provides fans to older adults and people with disabilities in the summer months.  

How can I stay safe during extreme heat?  

  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car on a warm day. 
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Stay on lowest floor out of sunshine if air conditioning is unavailable.  
  • If air conditioning is not available in your home go to a cooling center or public place with air-conditioning.  
  • Take cool showers or baths. 
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. 
  • Use your oven less to help reduce the temperature in your home. 
  • If you’re outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face.  
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, eat well-balanced meals, and avoid alcoholic beverages.  
  • Avoid high-energy activities or work outdoors, during midday heat, if possible. 
  • Check on family members, seniors and neighbors. 
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 
  • Consider pet safety. If they are outside, make sure they have plenty of cool water and access to comfortable shade.  
  • Dress in loose-fitting and lightweight clothing. If using a mask, use one that is made of breathable fabric, such as cotton, instead of polyester.  

How can I find a public shelter with air conditioning?  

If your home loses power during periods of extreme heat, go to a designated public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345). You can also visit nc211.org and type “Extreme Heat Cooling Centers” into the search bar on our homepage.  

SOURCES: Ready NC, Ready.gov 

Last updated 7/1/2023

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