12 Tips to Follow When a Heat Advisory Is in Effect

Summer is here, and in many parts of the country that can mean dangerous heat waves. As the National Weather Service notes, “Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses.” The Weather Service issues an official Heat Advisory within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions, which it defines as a specified period of time during which the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100 degrees or higher, and nighttime air temperatures will not drop below 75 degrees, although these criteria may vary depending on where you live. The next time your area is subject to a Heat Advisory, be sure to take these precautions to keep your family safe and cool.
Donna Boyle Schwartz Avatar

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Stay Informed


You can’t take the proper steps to handle a heat wave if you aren’t aware of the advisories and warnings. There are many ways to keep informed: Monitor your local television and radio stations; tune into NOAA Weather Radio; check the weather online, or download the free Heat Safety Tool from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for your Android or iPhone mobile device.

Never Leave Anyone in the Car


Children, pets, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to heat exposure, but even healthy adults can quickly succumb to heat exhaustion or stroke in a parked car. Temperatures inside a car rise rapidly, even if the windows are left open—and the results can be tragic. Each year, dozens of children and hundreds of pets die after being left in parked vehicles during a heat wave. 



Keep yourself properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water or nonalcoholic beverages. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, keep drinking water. Avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating, as well as caffeinated drinks and sodas, which can be less hydrating than good old water.

Related: 10 Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes Before Spending Time in the Sun

Stay Inside


Minimize your time outside and avoid direct exposure to the sun. If you must go outside, schedule your outdoor activities for the cooler early morning or evening hours. Avoid being outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is typically the hottest part of the day.

Dress Down


Wear cool, lightweight, and loose-fitting clothing and a hat with a wide brim. Also, choose light-colored clothing to reflect the sunlight and keep you cooler. A parasol or umbrella is a “cool” accessory to help keep the sun away. Make sure to apply sunscreen frequently to avoid sunburn.

Take It Easy


Slow down and take frequent breaks, preferably inside or in the shade. Don’t run, play games, or perform any strenuous outdoor activities.

Crank Up the A/C


This one’s a no-brainer: Use air conditioners to stay cool during a heat wave. But don’t forget to keep the filters clean to ensure peak performance. If you don’t have an air conditioner, go somewhere that has one, like your local library, mall, or community cooling center. You can also use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from your rooms or draw cooler air into your home. Set your ceiling fans to turn counterclockwise to push cooler air down toward you.

Related: These Are the 12 Best Things You Can Do for Your AC

Enjoy a Soak


Take a cool bath or shower to bring your body temperature down. If you are outside, set up a misting sprinkler or misting fan to cool you off.

Eat Light


Salads, fruit, and cold soups are good options for dining during a heat wave because they are easy to digest and make you feel cooler than you would after eating a hot, heavy meal. If you are packing food for a picnic, make sure to put it in a cooler filled with ice or ice packs; food spoils very quickly in the heat.

Be a Good Neighbor


Check on your neighbors, family, and friends, paying special attention to the elderly and disabled, to make sure they are aware of the Heat Advisory and are taking adequate precautions. Ensure that vulnerable individuals are in a cool location and drinking plenty of water.

Related: 11 Selfish Reasons to Make Friends with Your Neighbors

Keep the Sun Out


Close blinds, shades, or draperies on the sunny side of the house to minimize the heat. You may want to consider installing awnings over particularly exposed windows to provide more shade.

Have a Plan


Know the warning signs of heat-related illness and what to do if you or someone you know begins to exhibit them. Heat cramps—painful muscle spasms in the legs or abdomen—and heavy sweating may be the first signs of heat-related illness. Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, clammy skin, fast or weak pulse, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. Symptoms of heat stroke include throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing, fainting, a body temperature above 103 degrees, and an altered mental state. For information about dealing with heat exposure, download a free Heat Wave Safety Checklist from the American Red Cross.