Extreme Heat

thermometer registering high temps in front of traffic

High temperatures can cause illness, as excessive heat can increase your body’s core temperature. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a heat illness happens when your body is unable to dissipate heat effectively. Personal factors, like age, obesity, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, sunburn and prescription drug and alcohol use can all play a role in your body’s ability to cool off during hot weather. Those who are at highest risk for heat-related illness include people 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.

These tips can help to prevent heat-related illness during periods of extremely hot temperatures:

  • Stay inside in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Air-conditioning is the number one way to protect yourself against heat-related illness. If your home is not air-conditioned, visit a public location, like a library, to cool off.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink
  • Fans will not prevent heat-related illness in extreme heat, instead take cool showers or baths to cool down
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter
  • Don’t drink alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine
  • Limit your outdoor activity, especially during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest

If you must be outside during the heat of the day, follow these tips:

  • Wear and frequently reapply sunscreen
  • Pace your activity and rest often
  • Pay attention to muscle cramping, which may be an early sign of heat-related illness. To combat cramping and heat-related illnesses, drink more what than usual
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and a hat

Heat illness, including heat stroke, can be dangerous and even fatal if not treated appropriately. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include: red or itchy skin, muscle pain or cramps, shallow breathing, elevated body temperature, a weak but quick pulse, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness or fainting.

During periods of extreme heat, check on friends and neighbors to be sure they are safe and remember to never leave children unattended in a hot car.

Denver Animal Protection (DAP) reminds residents to never leave their pets alone in vehicles.

If you suspect an animal is suffering heatstroke:

  • Move the animal to shade or a cooler area.
  • Cool the pet down with water or ice packs on the stomach only.
  • Offer cool drinking water, but do not force-feed it.
  • Don’t dunk the pet in water. This can hurt them even more when their temperature regulation is impaired.
  • Don’t cover, crate, or confine the animal.
  • Even if your pet responds to cooling treatments, it’s critical your pet sees an emergency veterinarian to see if it has suffered irreversible damage.

If you see a dog in a hot car immediately call 311 or the Denver Police non-emergency number, 720-913-2000. You should also familiarize yourself with the state’s Good Samaritan law which provides legal immunity to people who break a car window to save an animal. However, to ensure immunity:

  • You must believe the animal is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • The vehicle must be locked.
  • You must make a ‘reasonable effort’ to find the vehicle’s owner.
  • You must contact the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire or DAP before entering the vehicle.
  • You cannot use more force than necessary to free the animal.
  • If you break a window, you must remain with the animal and on scene until police or DAP officers arrive.

DAP also offers the following tips for protecting your pet from the summer heat, in general:

  • Don’t transport animals in the beds of pickup trucks. It’s illegal to let dogs ride loose in truck beds. The hot metal can also burn their paws. Exposure to direct sunlight can be just as harmful as being left inside an enclosed vehicle.
  • Avoid excess exercise with your pet when it’s hot outside.
  • Be mindful of hot pavement that can burn your pet’s feet. If you can’t hold your bare hand on pavement for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
  • Provide adequate shelter from the elements, as well as access to fresh water. Denver city ordinance requires pets have adequate outdoor shelter, such as a doghouse, porch area, or similar structure that allows an animal to escape the elements.