SEATTLE — Seattle made history last month. The National Weather Service said that on May 13, the high reached 86 degrees—just topping the city’s record of 85 degrees in 2018.
Unfortunately, this is a trend that will not go away anytime soon. Because of climate change, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest will continue climbing. Our community can expect to see more extreme heat days in the future.
Hot weather doesn’t impact everyone equally. People of color and low-income households have access to fewer resources to keep themselves cool and safe. They are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with little tree cover, which overheat more quickly and stay hot for much longer than areas in wealthier neighborhoods. Also at higher risk during hot weather are older adults aged 65 and above, young children, individuals with chronic health conditions or mental illness, athletes who exercise outdoors, outdoor workers, and people who are homeless.
Now that summer has begun and more hot weather is expected to sweep through Seattle and western Washington in the coming months, it is important to know what steps you can take to protect your health and well-being.
Beat the heat
- Keep your living space cool. Close curtains or blinds during the day to block out direct sunlight, use fans or air conditioners to circulate cool air, and consider using reflective films on windows to reduce heat absorption.
- Check in on at-risk friends, family, and neighbors, and spend time in air-conditioned buildings whenever possible.
- If you don’t have air conditioning at home, go to public places that are air-conditioned, such as shopping malls, libraries, or community centers. Alternatively, use fans and cool, damp towels to help lower body temperature. Some cities in King County may provide cooling centers for those in need.
- Be careful when engaging in physical activities like outdoor sports or exercising during peak heat hours. If you must exercise outdoors, choose cooler times of the day, such as early morning or evening, and listen to your body to avoid overdoing it.
- To cool down rapidly, wear wet scarves, bandanas, or shirts. Stay hydrated and drink water, even when you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and sugary drinks as they can lead to dehydration.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing that allows air circulation and reflects sunlight. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will help protect your face and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
Recognize the signs
Heat exhaustion happens when the body can’t cool itself quickly enough, resulting in symptoms such as muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. If someone shows signs of overheating, move them to a cooler location, allow them to rest for a few minutes, and give them a cool beverage. If the symptoms persist or worsen, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke—a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
Never leave infants, children, or pets in parked cars, even if the windows are cracked open. The temperature inside a parked car can rise quickly, which can cause severe medical problems and even death in just a short time.
Don’t forget to practice good water safety measures during hot weather. While jumping in local lakes can provide relief, make sure to wear a life jacket when near or in the water to avoid drowning incidents. Safer locations such as local pools or lifeguarded beaches are better places to go swimming and cool off.
For more information on staying safe in the heat, visit kingcounty.gov/beattheheat.
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