Heat Safety Guide

Thermometer hitting 100 degrees with a bright yellow sun behind it

As summer hits, so does the sun – often causing temperatures to swell into the triple digits. Extreme heat is defined as any weather that’s hotter than the average. In Kansas, this means prolonged heat index temperatures that reach the high 90s or over 100 degrees.

Extreme heat can be dangerous. In fact, it’s the number one weather-related killer in the United States, ahead of floods and tornadoes. Be sure to follow proper precautions to stay safe and cool when it gets hot and humid outside, as heat-related illness can strike fast.

Tips to Stay Safe from Extreme Heat

The National Weather Service issues heat advisories when extreme heat is anticipated, and when it can put the public’s health at risk. Follow weather updates from the NWS, trusted local news outlets and public safety officials.

As extreme heat hits and you’re going about your day, these tips can help you stay safe:

  • Stay hydrated: During hot weather, you will need to drink more water than your thirst indicates. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two-to four-glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Avoid drinks containing alcohol because they will actually dehydrate you.
  • Limit time outside: It’s best to stay indoors and out of the sun when extreme heat is in effect. Air-conditioned environments are the strongest protective factor for heat-related illness, much more effective than electric fans. If you must be outside for work or other activities, wear a hat, take breaks, and seek shade from trees and buildings.
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing: What should you wear to stay cool during extreme heat? Bright clothing is the best choice, as it reflects the sun’s rays (dark clothing, on the other hand, absorbs the heat). Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, as these garments help with air circulation. Don’t forget the sunglasses and sunscreen too!

Cooling Centers in Johnson County

If you are unable to access air conditioning in your home, there are plenty of facilities you can access to cool off. The Johnson County Library system manages 14 libraries throughout the county that act as “cooling centers” during periods of extreme heat.

These 14 libraries offer many services, in addition to a cool place to rest and restore during hours of operation (hours vary by location):

You can also search for cooling centers in your area using United Way's cooling center lookup.

Additional cooling centers:

  • Olathe Public Libraries: Both locations of the Olathe Public Library serve as cooling centers. Each have bottled water provided by the Olathe Fire Department. 
  • Spring Hill Civic Center: The Spring Hill Civic Center operates as a cooling center Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The facility has restrooms, water, a television and Wi-Fi for visitors. 
Exterior of Lenexa City Center Library, with road and building with glass windows visible

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

A black man and a white woman assist a man suffering from dizzy spells during a hot, sunny day

If you don’t take proper precautions during extreme heat, you can begin to experience symptoms of heat-related illness. Common heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat stroke: The most serious heat-related illness, in which the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down.
  • Heat exhaustion: A milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to extreme heat and lack of hydration.
  • Heat cramps: Muscle pains or spasms – usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs – that may occur in association with strenuous activity.
  • Heat rash: A irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather, which can look like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.

Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke if left untreated, and both forms of heat-related illness can cause death or permanent disability without proper medical care. Warning signs of heat stroke include:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If you see someone experiencing these symptoms during extreme heat, call 911 for immediate medical assistance. While you await the help of paramedics, cool the individual rapidly, get them to a shaded area and monitor their body temperature.

Do your part to keep others safe in Johnson County, too. During periods of extreme heat, check on your neighbors and vulnerable family members – including elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities – to make sure they’re okay.

View First Aid Instructions for Heat Illness

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