With the start of summer come concerns about heat stroke. About 650 people die each year in the U.S. from heat-related health problems. And a recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a heat wave last summer found that 70 percent of deaths occurred at home, mostly among people without air conditioning. But heat illness is 100 percent preventable, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. Our experts recommend taking the following precautions if your area is experiencing severe heat:
1. Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water. And avoid alcohol.
2. Look for air conditioning. Find an air-conditioned environment, especially if there's an air-pollution alert in effect. Top models in our Ratings include the LG LW1210ER, the Friedrich Chill CP08G10, and the
Kenmore 70051. If you don't have access to air conditioning, take cool showers or baths, keep shades or curtains closed during the hottest times of day, use a fan, and open windows for cross-ventilation.
3. Dress cool. Wear loose-fitting clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen.
4. Limit activity. Heatstroke can occur in less than an hour when you're doing a strenuous activity on a hot day. It's best to avoid exercise when it's super-hot, especially in the sun, and to limit other physical activity. (Save yard work for after the heat wave, for example.)
5. Watch for signs of heat stroke. Those include weakness, cold or clammy skin, fatigue, delirium, nausea or vomiting, headache, confusion, or convulsions. If you experience those symptoms are are with someone who does, get out of the heat and head to an emergency room immediately.
6. Watch your drugs. Certain medications can increase the risk of heat stroke by decreasing sweating. Those include anticholinergics, antihistamines, beta-blockers, and phenothiazines.
See our buying guide and Ratings for air conditioners.
Heat-Related Deaths After an Extreme Heat Event -- Four States, 2012, and United States, 1999-2009