Summer in Central Arizona is always hot. Always! Even “normal” summer temperatures in Phoenix are dangerous. Then we get a few days or weeks of extreme heat that can be even worse. Know the risks with heat safety, understand the signs of heat illness, and be prepared.
Risks for Extreme Heat
We might be used to high temperatures here in Phoenix, but above 110, 115, or higher are serious. And, when we have more humidity – before or after summer rains usually – it can make the heat much worse. Knowing about heat safety is important year round in Central Arizona.
Everyone can get sick when the temperature and/or humidity go above normal. But some groups are in more danger of getting sick, including people who are:
- Infants or young children
- Older adults
- Living with chronic medical conditions or on certain medications
Signs of Heat Illness
There are different levels of heat illness and knowing the symptoms can help a person recover and may even save their life.
- Heat rash – red cluster of pimples or small blisters around the neck and chest areas typically. Get the person to a cool, shady place and keep the rash dry.
- Heat cramps – muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the legs, arms, or stomach. Drink water and eat something but avoid salt.
- Heat syncope – dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting. The person should sit down and slowly sip water or clear juice.
- Heat exhaustion – is when your body has a serious loss of water and salt, and the person has a headache, nausea, heavy sweating, dizziness, or weakness. Remove the person from the heat, remove unnecessary clothing, give them liquids, put cool compresses on head and neck, and go to a doctor or hospital.
- Heat stroke – the most serious illness and can cause death if not treated quickly. The person may have a seizure, be confused, have a very high body temperature, may sweat a lot or have hot dry skin. Call 9-1-1 immediately and begin trying to cool the person down with an ice bath (best action), cool compresses on head and neck, soak clothing with cold water, and use a fan to keep air moving around them.
Prepare for the Heat
It comes every year, so we should all be prepared for the heat. Starting as early as May and going through October, temperatures and humidity can get uncomfortable or dangerous and heat safety is even more important.
First, never ever leave any person or pet in a car. In Arizona, even in cooler weather, cars can get dangerously hot quickly. Never leave anyone or any pet in a car.
Next, limit outdoor activities and exercises if possible. People make the mistake of thinking because they (or their pets) have hiked, run, walked, etc. during hot weather before, that they are somehow immune to the dangers with sometimes devastating results. If you must do activities outside or work outdoors, avoid the hottest part of the day, try to avoid days with extreme temperatures, leave pets at home, seek as much shade as possible, and be sure to take plenty of cold water, a charged phone, and wear appropriate clothing.
Lastly, check on older family, friends, and neighbors. When older people have mobility issues or live alone, the risks can be even worse. Call or better, visit them in person to make sure they are safe.
If keeping the power on is a concern, NOAH’s Community Resource Team may be able to help find utility assistance or other types of help. Also, most power companies in Arizona cannot shut off power from June 1 – October 15 for late payments. So even if you, or someone you know like an elderly neighbor is behind on payments, they will be cool and safe at home during the hottest months.
Throughout Maricopa County there are cooling stations for people who need water or don’t have access to cool, indoor spaces for safety. Find one near you but be prepared so hopefully you never need it.