How To Prepare For A Heat Wave, And Survive The Summer In One (Sweaty) Piece

It's getting hot in herre (so hot) / So take off all your clothes — no, this isn't a Nelly song from 2002, it's my super hip 2015 public service announcement about how to prepare for the heat wave, because it is going to be a scorcher across much of the country this weekend and into next week (do I sound like a weather girl or what?), and y'all need to know how to beat dis heat. The West Coast is projected to have near-historic highs, and heat warnings have already been issued throughout the Northeast, so this isn't some minor summer sizzler we are talking about — this is a major, my-body-is-basically-an-oven type of broiler.

While hot temps are usually a much anticipated part of summer, what we don't often think about is how deadly they can be. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, when "California was hit by deadly heat waves in 2006, the heat caused during a two-week period 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs." Those statistics are no joke, but don't worry. Just follow these seven steps to stay safe as the temperature rises.

1. Drink up (water, not alcohol dummy)

Take your cues from this cat, and lap up lots of water, regardless if you're thirsty or not. During periods of extreme heat, your body needs more than normal. The Center for Disease Control recommends two to four cups of water per hour while working or exercising outside. Rover (or Georgia, in my case) needs H2O, too, so make sure you leave the house prepared and ready to hydrate when you head out for a walk in the heat. At the same time, try to steer clear of alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, as each can lead to dehydration.

2. Adjust your eating

This summer's hot, new diet is so hip that no one at Goop has even heard of it! It's called Heat Advisory Don't Die, or H.A.D.D. for short. The crux is small meals, more often because large meals (as well as high-protein foods) raise your metabolic heat, and thusly cause more water loss in their digestion. Eating lots of fruits and veggies is a safe bet during high temps, because they're loaded with water so you're getting an extra dose of H2O while you nosh. C'mon, get with the hydration trend, all the cool kids are doing it.

3. Wear your summer whites

We get it, Marilyn Manson, you like to wear your feelings — and boy are they dark and impenetrable! But as the thermostat rises, your favorite black t-shirt can become your worst enemy, as it transmits heat to skin, making an already hot situation even hotter. NPR's golden rule is: “Light-colored clothes in the summertime during the day, and get naked at night." Now that is a protocol I can get behind.

4. Keep an eye on the forecast

A heat wave is not a great time to wing it. Check your local news for heat watches, warnings, and advisories so you know what kind of weather you're dealing with, whether it's already there, or just on its way. The Red Cross also advocates listening to a NOAA Weather Radio station for updates from the National Weather Service to stay informed.

5. Stay cool

Damn, Brigitte Bardot, if that's hot, I don't wanna be cool! But then again if my air conditioner broke, my desire for comfort and safety would override my vanity, and I'd be crying uncle in like 2.2 seconds. A hand fan (or even regular fan for that matter) is probably not gonna cut it against triple-digit heat. What will help? Stay indoors and air conditioned. Don't have your own AC? Head to the local mall, movie theater, or public library.

However, if you absolutely must, Ready.gov has two crucial pieces of advice for toughing it out at home with no AC: first, rig aluminum foil-covered cardboard between windows and curtains to reflect heat back outside, and second, make sure windows receiving direct morning or afternoon sun are covered with drapes, shades, and/or awnings. Another hot tip for staying chill is taking lots of cool showers or baths. Thanks CDC! Don't mind if I do aaaaaaall daaaaaay loooooong... or at least until I turn into a prune.

6. Know the signs

Be aware of the signs of heat-related injury, including heat cramps (painful muscle spasms), heat exhaustion (more serious than heat cramps), and heat stroke (a life-threatening escalation of untreated heat exhaustion), and be on the lookout for symptoms in yourself and others during periods of high temperatures.

If you do identify heat stress, there are ways you can help. Here are the CDC's recommendations:

  • Get to the shade.
  • Call for medical assistance.
  • Cool the person by any means necessary, i.e. immerse the affected person in a cool tub of water, spray with a hose, and/or wrap in a cool, wet sheet, and fan powerfully.
  • Monitor the person's body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temp drops to 101–102° F.
  • If there's a delay in emergency services, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.

7. Check on loved ones and neighbors

Yes, summer is usually a fun and fancy-free time of year, but heat kills. The old, young, and those already in poor health are especially vulnerable, so check in on those you know who may need help. Be aware that smog, stagnant air, and the concrete jungle of most cities makes the effects of a heat wave stronger and more prolonged in urban areas. Perhaps most importantly: Never ever, ever leave kids or pets unattended in the car. When I first got my dog, I learned this the hard way after a UTI and early morning trip to Planned Parenthood turned into a super scary, mortifying trip to Animal Rescue to reclaim my beloved pup after the temperature took a sharp turn toward sweltering.

Looking for more instant ways to beat the heat this summer? Check out these genius cooling tricks, and for more life hacks, visit Bustle on YouTube.

Bustle on YouTube

Images: Getty; Giphy (7)