Severe weather

How do you avoid heat-related illness?

Heat-related illnesses including heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat may occur with long exposure to heat without relief or hydration, according to Johns Hopkins

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Extreme heat is the deadliest form of weather, according to, so it's important to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors from heat-related illnesses.

Everyone is vulnerable to heat-related illnesses but particularly the elderly, children, people who work outside and pets, according to the Prince George’s County Health Department.

If you know someone who needs help, local governments offer resources for people who need relief from heat. Here are links to pages that list cooling centers and other helpful information:

NBC4 Washington asked a doctor to explain the signs of heat-related illness and how to protect yourself.

What are the types of heat-related illnesses and signs to watch out for?

Dr. Rachel Marquez, with Kaiser Permanente, said the signs to look out for include developing muscle cramps, nausea, light headaches and fatigue or dizziness.

Heat-related illnesses including heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps may occur with long exposure to heat without relief or hydration, according to Johns Hopkins.

A heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and a life-threatening emergency, according to Johns Hopkins. It occurs rapidly when a person’s body is unable to properly cool down and can damage the brain and organs. Symptoms include red and dry skin, disorientation, delirium and nausea. If you think someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911.

Heat exhaustion is less severe, but can turn into heat stroke if not taken seriously. Symptoms include muscle cramps, dizziness, weakness, headaches, nausea, diarrhea and passing out.

If someone is suffering from either heat illness, you can help them by moving them to a cool, dry place, removing excess clothing, trying to cool them down with a fan or cool cloths and offering them a cool drink (a sports drink containing salt and sugar is recommended for cramps and exhaustion.)

Heat exhaustion "can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids," the Prince George's County Health Department said.

How can you prevent heat-related illness?

The key is hydration. If exercising, Dr. Marquez recommends drinking water before, during and after.

She said to take extra precautions during high heat periods of the day, typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which can put individuals at an increased risk of developing heat-related illnesses. D.C. often sees some of its hottest temperatures after 4 p.m.

“One thing that you should remember about heat-related illness is that it can be cumulative,” she said. “So, even if you're outside, you're exercising, you're feeling pretty good and you come inside and you can be very commonly feel run down and the heat-related illness can then affect you after that, so it's really important to try and stay on top of hydration."

See below for more tips from the Prince George’s County Health Department:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Cool off in AC
  • Wear lightweight clothes
  • Use sunscreen
  • Check on vulnerable individuals
  • Never leave kids or pets in cars

Where can you find a cooling center?

Cooling centers are available in D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

In D.C., free transportation to cooling centers is available by calling 202-399-7093 or 311; find other D.C. resources here.

Arlington County is offering shelters and resources during the heat wave. Financial assistance with air conditioning repairs is available by calling 703-228-1350. Shelter for homeless individuals is available by calling 703-228-1010. Find more information here.

Find cooling centers in Alexandria here.

Montgomery County has issued a heat emergency alert starting at 11 a.m. Thursday, lasting until 9 p.m. Saturday; find resources for the county here.

Find cooling centers in Prince George's County here.

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