Believe it or not, heat-related illnesses cause more deaths each year here in the U.S. than earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes do combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 618 annual deaths come from heat related illness. So how can we protect ourselves and our family?

Although everyone can be affected by the heat, elderly and infants and young kids are especially vulnerable. In addition, outdoor workers and to people with asthma, heart disease, or other lung diseases are more susceptible to heat-related illness.

One of the most important steps we can take is to drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty. I have made it a habit to have a water bottle with me at my desk, in my car, basically wherever I am.  I have also taught my kids to drink water instead of soda or sweet drinks.  Sugary, caffeinated beverages as well as alcohol can contribute to dehydration.  Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation since that can also dehydrate you.

Spend some of your time in an air conditioned place. If something goes wrong with your air, visit a mall, a restaurant, or anywhere else that can provide you with air for a little bit to feel cool and protected.

Wear loose and light colored clothing and schedule outdoor activities and exercise in the cooler parts of the day. If you are outside in the heat, stay in the shade or cool off in the water if possible. Check on elderly or frail neighbors or loved ones during a heatwave.  Finally don’t forget your pets. Give them plenty of water and keep them inside during a heatwave.

Heat-related illness an be serious. Don’t risk not being prepared. Take care of yourself, your relatives and children and stay cool and safe this summer!

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