How you can stay safe in the summer heat

picture of sun shining over a valley

Summers in New Hampshire and Vermont are bringing higher temperatures accompanied by increased humidity.

Laura Paulin, MD, MHS, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, shares what you should know about staying safe in the heat, especially if you or someone you know has an existing health condition. She also recommends keeping an eye on poor air quality as that can result in more incidents of cardiac events, respiratory illnesses, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and even death.

Some basic heat safety tips are:

  • Be prepared. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and the air quality index (AQI), especially if you plan to go outdoors. On days with high heat and humidity, the harmful effects of air pollutants increase.
  • When you do go out, try to plan your outings early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise in the heat.

Those with pre-existing medical conditions

If you have existing medical conditions—especially a heart or lung condition—you are more at risk from the dangers of heat and humidity. When temperatures rise, take the following additional actions:

  • Continue to take your prescribed medications as your doctor recommends.
  • Stay indoors in a cool area of your home; use air conditioning and HEPA filters if possible.
  • If necessary, seek out a local cooling shelter in your area.

What to watch for

There are warning signs to watch for if you have a respiratory or heart condition during high heat and humidity. See a doctor if you have:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headaches
  • Fainting

If someone has lost consciousness or shows signs of confusion, get them to the hospital immediately.

Dartmouth Health Emergency Medicine physician Ryan Gerecht, MD, provides important tips to help you beat the heat.