Millions of Americans remain under heat advisories today as temperatures are expected to scorch a large swath of the U.S. The National Weather Service reported that record or near-record highs could be achieved across the south-central states, climbing up into the Great Plains. Stephanie Fox, the national media lead at the American Red Cross, told Cheddar News that there are a number of steps people can take to keep themselves and their pets safe in the days to come. They are especially important, she noted, for residents who live in areas that are not used to getting triple-digit temperatures.
"Excessive heat is extremely dangerous and right now we are seeing communities that may not typically see these types of heat events occurring in their communities, so people may not be quite as prepared. So, you want to make sure that you're drinking plenty of fluids, wearing light-colored and lightweight clothing, applying sunscreen, and really just staying indoors during the hottest part of the day as much as possible," she said.Image: 
(Image: Cheddar News)
Ignoring advisories and warnings can lead to heat-related illnesses like cramps,  exhaustion, and heat stroke, which can be life-threatening. 
Heat cramps can occur after intense exercise or sweating, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. While it's considered the mildest form of heat-related illnesses, intense muscle pain and spasms are certainly a concern.
Heat exhaustion happens when the body gets dehydrated and can't cool itself down. Extreme thirst, dizziness and confusion, feeling sick, and cramps in the arms, legs, and stomach are all symptoms. If left untreated, it can progress to heat stroke and potentially lead to death. 

Highest Risk of Heat-Related Illness

Fox noted that there are groups who are at greater risk of suffering from a heat-related illness.
"Folks who may have medical conditions that could be exacerbated by the heat are certainly very high at-risk, but anybody who spends a significant amount of time outside could experience heat-related illnesses," she told Cheddar News.
Johns Hopkins also identified children and teens as at-risk groups, as they may not stop to rest or rehydrate while having fun. To stay safe, they should tone it down by limiting or completely eliminating strenuous activities in the heat.
If an emergency situation arises, immediately call 911 and cool off the victim, said Fox. She suggested moving them to a cooler location, submerging them up to the neck in cold water, or covering them with bags of ice as needed. At the minimum, spraying them with cool water will help until emergency responders arrive.

Pet Safety in Hot Temperatures

Identifying heat-related illnesses in humans can be a challenge in and of itself, but monitoring pet safety during a heat wave is also essential.
"Our pets are going to be predisposed to different symptoms as it pertains to heat. So, the important thing is to ensure that your pets have access to water — cool water — and a location that has plenty of cover. Limit the amount of time that your pets are outside, and keep an eye for similar symptoms that humans might have like heavy breathing, being extremely lethargic, sweating a significant amount, and keep your eyes peeled for any changes in behavior and consciousness as well," she said.
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For people without readily accessible air conditioning at home, Fox also said it's important to know your neighborhood. Communities often host cooling centers where residents can gather to beat the heat during the day. She also suggested visiting public indoor spaces like libraries and malls to enjoy their cool temps. Those using fans to keep cool should still come up with an alternative plan when the thermometer hits 95 degrees or higher.
"If you are going to be using a fan in that extreme heat, all it's doing, if you don't have cooler air around it to be pumped into it, it's just blowing more heat on you, so it can actually cause further issues," Fox said.
For a full list of heat-related safety tips, you can check out the American Red Cross website.