Stay safe in the heat

With a big change from spring to summer temperatures this week, it’s time to remind Utahns how to avoid heat-related injuries and illnesses. Children, older adults, and anyone who spends extended time outdoors, especially workers whose jobs keep them outside, can be at a higher risk for injury when high temperatures are present.

Hot cars: 

On average, 38 children die each year in the U.S. from heatstroke after being trapped inside a motor vehicle. On a 90-degree day, a car can heat up to well over 100 degrees in 30 minutes. A child’s body heats up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body. Safety tips include:

  • Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. It can be tempting to leave a child alone in a vehicle for a few minutes, but it can cause serious injury or even death in a matter of minutes. 
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911 immediately.

“Look before you lock.” Leave a reminder on the back seat, such as a purse, employee ID or cellphone, so that you have to open the door to get that item when you arrive at your destination. Or, keep a large stuffed animal on the front seat as a visual reminder that a child is in the back.

Outdoor exertion and outdoor workers:

Limit outdoor sports and activities during the hottest time of the day. 

For employers

OSHA provides the following tips to employers who oversee workers whose work is primarily outdoors:

  • Follow the 20% Rule — on the first day, don’t allow employees to work more than 20% of a shift at full intensity in the heat. Increase their time by no more than 20% a day until they are used to working in the heat.
  • Provide cool drinking water – encourage workers to drink at least one cup every 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty.
  • Rest breaks — allow workers time to recover from heat in a shady or cool location.
  • Dress for the heat — have workers wear a hat and light-colored, loose fitting, breathable clothing if possible.
  • Watch out for each other — encourage workers to monitor themselves and others for signs of heat illness.
  • Look for any signs of heat illness, including fainting, dizziness, nausea, and muscle spasms, and act quickly — when in doubt, call 911.
  • Offer training on the hazards of heat exposure and how to prevent illness.
  • Develop an emergency action plan on what to do if a worker shows signs of heat-related illness.

For employees

If you cannot avoid outdoor exertion, make sure to do the following:

Drink extra water before, during, and after outdoor work or play to avoid dehydration.

Have a safety plan where workers check on one another for signs of heat exhaustion, which include: 

  • heavy sweating
  • paleness
  • muscle cramps
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • cool, moist skin
  • rapid but weak pulse
  • rapid but shallow breathing

If a person is experiencing heat exhaustion:

  • Get them to rest in a cooler place out of the sun, air-conditioned if possible.
  • Soak a cloth in water and place it on the skin.
  • They should drink water.

If heat exhaustion is untreated, it can lead to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms include 

  • extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
  • red, hot and dry skin (without sweating)
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • throbbing headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea​

If a person is experiencing these symptoms, call 911. 

  • Cool them with cool, damp cloths or with a bath.
  • Do not try to give liquids to someone who is unconscious. 

Older adults

Older adults may also be at risk during times of high temperatures. 

Here are some tips for older Utahs from the National Institute on Aging:

  • If your living space is hot, try to spend time during midday in a place that has air conditioning. For example, go to the shopping mall, movies, library, senior center, or a friend’s home. You may also contact your local health department or city to find out if they have air-conditioned shelters in your area.
  • If you need help getting to a cooler place, ask a friend or relative. Some religious groups, senior centers, and Area Agencies on Aging provide this service. Search the Eldercare Locator to find services in your area. You could also consider taking a taxi or other car service or calling your local government to see if they offer senior transportation. Don’t stand outside in the heat waiting for a bus.
  • Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Natural fabrics such as cotton may feel cooler than synthetic fibers.
  • Avoid outdoor exercising and other physical activity when it is very hot. Instead, try to find someplace you can be active while staying cool indoors.
  • If you must go outside, try to limit your time out and avoid crowded places. Plan trips during non-rush-hour times.
  • Make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, and reapply it throughout the day, especially if your skin will have continuous exposure to the sun. Wear a hat and other protective clothing, and sunglasses. If you do get sunburned, stay out of the sun until your skin is healed and use cool cloths and moisturizers to treat the affected area.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medications make you more likely to become overheated or sunburned.



Visit or for more summer safety tips