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Tips to beat the heat

July 05, 1999

Tips from the National Weather Service and Allegheny Power on what to do when a heat wave strikes.

For your body:




  • Drink more nonalcoholic, noncarbonated, caffeine-free beverages such as water and juice.
  • Wear clothing that is light in color and loose fitting.
  • Avoid the outdoors during extreme heat.
  • Stay out of the sun.
  • Stay in an air-conditioned environment if possible. Shopping malls offer relief if your home is not air-conditioned.
  • Check on the elderly. They are especially susceptible to heat-related illness.
  • Eliminate strenuous activity such as running, biking and lawn care work.
  • Eat less foods, such as proteins, that increase metabolic activity/heat. Increased metabolic heat increases water loss.


At home:




  • Keep window shades, blinds and draperies closed on the sunny side of the house.
  • Keep lamps, television sets, and other heat-producing appliances away from air-conditioner thermostats.
  • Schedule activities that produce heat and humidity, such as showering or laundry, for the early morning or late evening when outdoor temperatures are generally lower. Avoid doing only partial loads in dishwashers and clothes washers.
  • Use the microwave rather than the conventional range for cooking.
  • Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees, vent the clothes dryer to the outside, and close fireplace dampers to prevent loss of cooled air.
  • Use devices such as awnings, overhangs and sunscreens to shade windows from the sun.
  • Plant shade trees on the south, east and west sides of the house to provide shade. Plantings also will cool the air as moisture evaporates from the leaves.
  • Use light colors to reflect solar heat. Keep this in mind when selecting shingles for the roof or paint for outside walls.
  • Install the proper amounts of insulation in your home, and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. It's just as important to keep heat outdoors during the summer as it is to keep it indoors during the winter.
  • Control humidity levels by using kitchen exhaust fans when cooking and bathroom exhaust fans when showering or bathing. Turn off exhaust fans after humidity is cleared to avoid venting cold air.
  • Increase attic ventilation. The attic temperature should never exceed 130 degrees. Consider a power ventilator if you are unable to provide enough natural ventilation.


For the air conditioner:

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  • Set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees. A good rule of thumb is to cool the house no more than 10 to 12 degrees below the outside temperature.
  • Keep outdoor sections of air-conditioning equipment free from shrubbery and other obstructions.
  • Make sure room air registers, both supply and return, are not obstructed by draperies or furniture.
  • Check the air-conditioner filter at least once a month, and clean or replace it as necessary.


When it's too hot.

Heat related illnesses and their symptoms:




  • Sunburn: Redness and pain in the skin. In severe cases there can also be swelling, blisters, fever, and headaches.
  • Heat cramps: Heavy sweating and painful spasms usually in the leg or abdomen muscles.
  • Heat exhaustion: The person is weak and sweating heavily. The skin is cold, pale and clammy. The pulse becomes thready. Fainting and vomiting accompanies heat exhaustion.
  • Heatstroke/sunstroke: High body temperature of 106 degrees or higher along with hot dry skin and a rapid pulse. Unconsciousness is possible.


The Heat Index - the opposite of "wind chill."

The Heat Index combines the effects of heat and humidity. Warm temperatures feel even warmer when it is humid.

Heat Index values and their effects:




  • 80 to 90 degrees: Fatigue possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.
  • 90 to 105 degrees: Sunstroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure and or physical activity.
  • 105 to 130 degrees: Sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely, and heatstroke possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.
  • 130 degrees and higher: Heatstroke/sunstroke highly likely with continued exposure.
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