The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is reminding all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves against the elevated heat indexes forecast for this weekend and the coming week with a few simple health precautions. Extreme heat can be dangerous, particularly for children, older adults, and some people with underlying medical conditions.

To protect yourself and your family from heat-related illness, take the following precautions:

  • Drink more fluids than usual, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids. Water is your best option. Limit alcohol, drinks with caffeine, and drinks with high amounts of sugar.
  • Check on friends and neighbors, particularly those who are caring for young children and older adults.
  • Stay out of the sun. Find a shaded area where you can sit and relax, particularly during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat if you are outside.
  • Limit outdoor activities, especially at mid-day. If you exercise outdoors, move your workout to a morning or evening time, take it indoors to an air-conditioned environment, or try swimming, which is a great summer exercise. If you work outside, wear sunscreen (re-apply frequently), pace your activity, stay hydrated, and check on co-workers.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down, particularly if you’re unable to be in an air-conditioned location.
  • Avoid turning on your oven, if possible. It will make your house hotter.
  • Never leave young children or pets in parked cars, even with the windows down.

People should also try to stay in air-conditioned spaces when it gets very hot. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, consider going to the home of a friend or loved one who does. There are also cooling centers in Rhode Island. If you go to a cooling center or congregate in an air-conditioned space, bring a mask or cloth face-covering, maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others, and wash or sanitize your hands frequently. This can help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Heat-related illness, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, are of particular concern during periods of extreme heat.

  • Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale or clammy skin; a fast or weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; and fainting. Individuals who have symptoms of heat exhaustion should move to a cooler location, lie down, loosen clothing, sip water, and apply cool, wet cloths to help cool the body down. Seek medical attention if vomiting begins, or if symptoms get worse or last longer than one hour.
  • Heat stroke symptoms include high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit), combined with hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; confusion; and losing consciousness (passing out). Individuals experiencing heat stroke symptoms should also be moved to a cooler environment. Apply cool cloths or place the person into a cool bath to lower body temperature. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately.

For more information about symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, see www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning. For more information about summer safety, visit www.health.ri.gov/seasonal/summer.