Guidelines and resources help prevent, recognize and deal with heat-related health threats
Line workers’ hot weather tips & tricks
Some jobs require work outdoors in extreme heat, and that includes Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s line workers. Though routine work is scheduled before the worst of a day’s heat begins, outages require a quick response, no matter the temperature. Here are some of their secrets to beating the heat:
HYDRATE! Water is the go-to, and extra hydration ingredients such as electrolyte powders containing sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium can help replenish minerals lost in sweat. Some line workers prefer the tangy salt-and-vinegar taste of pickle juice, which can reduce muscle cramps brought on by extreme heat as well as aid hydration.
APPLY cool water or damp towels to the body’s temperature-regulating zones. Putting a cold compress or water on wrists, temples, the neck or behind knees can help lower body temperature. Frozen sponges and water bottles straight out of a cooler are other tools.
WEAR a wide-brimmed hat with a water-soaked bandana in it. That offers sun protection and adds evaporative cooling for the head.
CREATE a shaded ‘‘cooling zone.’’ Workers in the field set up a tent or canopy in a shaded area for quick breaks. Battery-powered fans or misting systems help with cooling.
WEAR lightweight, breathable clothing. While line workers on a job must wear personal protective equipment, they couple that with their lightest-weight regulation clothes.
MAINTAIN close communication with co-workers. Line workers are trained to watch for signs of heat-related illness in their team members and provide aid if needed. Those signs can include muscle cramps or spasms, heavy sweating, extreme thirst, high body temperature, cool/pale skin, headache, fast but weak pulse and dizziness/fainting.
INCORPORATE hydrating foods. Line workers increase their liquid intake by eating watermelon, cucumber, oranges, strawberries or food with high-water content.
SURVIVING SUMMER: Discover ways to keep your home cool, your electricity bills low and your wallet happy this summer season »
Tips and guidelines on heat illness, ways to cool down and regional resources
Central Texas’ heat is fast and furious in the weeks before summer’s official start June 21. Back-to-back days of triple-digit temperatures are dangerous to people, pets and livestock. Our guide to staying safe includes details on heat illness, safety tips, frequently asked questions and regional resources to keep you informed. The National Weather Service offers additional resources to help with forecasting and staying safe in the heat.
Heat warning levels
Excessive Heat Outlook
An outlook is issued when there is potential for an excessive heat event in the next three to seven days. Information is provided to those who need lead time to prepare for the heat.
Excessive Heat Watch
A watch means conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours, and that the risk of a heat wave has increased. However, its temperatures and timing are uncertain.
An advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions in the region. That typically means the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100° or higher for at least two days and night time temperatures will not drop below 75°. Take precautions to avoid serious, potentially fatal, heat illness.
Know when you are in danger: signs, symptoms, treatment
Heat related illnesses can creep up quickly. Check yourself and check in with others to make sure no one is experiencing symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
When working in the heat, monitor co-workers’ conditions and ask them to do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.
- Dark yellow urine with a strong smell
- Dizzy or light headed
- Dry mouth, lips or eyes
- Urinating less than four times a day
What to do:
- Drink clear fluids such as water, sports drinks (like Gatorade), ice pops or crushed ice, or clear broths
- Get out of the sun and heat quickly
- Painful muscle cramps
- Muscle spasms, usually in legs and abdomen
- Heavy sweating
What to do:
- Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water, but stop if the person complains of nausea.
- Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than one hour.
- Confusion or irritability
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Weakness or fatigue
- Cool, pale, moist skin with goose bumps in the heat
- Weak but rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
What to do:
- Move person to a cool location, preferably a well air-conditioned space
- Have someone stay with the person
- Loosen clothing, remove unnecessary items such as shoes or socks
- Apply cool, wet cloths or have person sit in a cool bath
- Offer frequent sips of cool water
- Transport to a nearby clinic or ER or call 911, especially if symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, or person vomits
- Throbbing headache
- Nausea, dizziness
- Body temperature above 103°F
- Hot, red, dry or damp skin
- Rapid and strong pulse
- Fainting, loss of consciousness
What to do:
- Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal.
- Move the person to a cooler, air-conditioned space.
- Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or cold bath.
- Use fan outdoors only if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s; outdoor fans in hotter weather can make someone hotter when air temperatures are high; but fans in air-conditioned space can help cool the body.
- Do not give fluids
Keep your pets safe
- On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours.
- Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun, as well as plenty of fresh, cool water.
- Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest, mat or raised bed.
- Plan outdoor summer activities with your pooch that involve some water play—sprinklers, splash pads, pools or lakes can all be fun and cooling.
- Never leave your dog in a parked car in the summer, even if the windows are cracked! Even on milder days, temperatures inside vehicles can quickly rise to dangerous, life-threatening levels.
Watch for these symptoms in pets
If you’re hot outside, your furry friend may be hotter. Our animals are more likely to overheat than we are, so learn the signs of an overheated pet:
- Excessive panting
- Reddened gums, possible redness in other areas of the mouth, including tongue
- Disorientation and/or dizziness; lack of coordination, stumbling or staggering
- Diarrhea (possibly with blood in it)
- Low urine production
- Warm to touch
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive sweating from the feet
In Lee, Fayette, Travis and Bastrop counties, register with Warn Central Texas (warncentraltex.org) so emergency personnel in your community can contact you directly by phone, text or email during a disaster or public safety event, including weather emergencies.
Get daily regional forecasts and heat information from the National Weather Service
Get summer safety tips from the National Weather Service
Extreme heat: frequently asked questions
Extreme heat is a period of two to three days or more when there is high heat and humidity, and temperatures exceed 90 degrees.
Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. Learn more about heat-related illness »
Older adults, infants and young children, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk for heat-related illness. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
Here are a few simple steps to take:
- Stay in an air-conditioned space as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library — even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Cut down on exercise during the heat. Plan outdoor activities in early morning or evening hours.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Even if you’re not thirsty, the CDC recommends drinking one cup of water every 20 minutes. Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. Sports drinks can help replenish salts and minerals.
Sun exposure can be dangerous to your skin and health. When spending time outdoors, wear clothing that blocks out light, including long-sleeved shirts and pants; use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, wear a hat to protect your neck and ears and limit sun exposure. UV rays are most intense and dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned spaces indoors. Turn fans on in rooms you are in. Plan outdoor activities for early morning or evening hours. If you are outdoors, limit activities to less than an hour. Consider water activities, such as time in a pool or sprinkler, to keep you or the kids cool.