Hot Weather Safety

Extreme heat events can result in serious illness and death. The City of Milwaukee Health Department monitors warm weather conditions and issues health alerts when necessary to partners in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Extreme Weather Task Force and to the public.

During warm weather, especially extreme heat events, it is important to stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed. If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, contact a medical provider. If a health issue is an emergency, dial 911.

Individuals in need of public space to cool off can visit our list of locations in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

Hot Weather Safety Tips

During extreme heat, it is important to take steps to keep yourself, your family, and those around you safe from heat-related illness.

Stay Cool

  1. Slow down, limit physical activity, and try to spend part of your day in air-conditioned spaces. Do not rely on fans as a primary cooling device. If your home does not have air conditioning, consider public places such as shopping malls, movie theaters, or libraries. During extreme heat events, local cooling centers may open.
  2. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
  3. Take cool baths or showers and use wet towels on your skin to help your body cool down.
  4. Never leave children, pets, or other adults, especially the elderly or those who are disabled, in a parked car. Temperatures can become life-threatening within minutes.

Stay Hydrated

  1. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, whether you are thirsty or not.
  2. Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as these can increase heat effects.

Stay Informed

  1. Check your local news and weather reports for extreme heat alerts and safety tips.
  2. Be aware of symptoms of heat-related illness in adults, and be aware of special tips for infants.
  3. Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors, especially those who may be most at-risk for illness. These include very young children, the elderly, and those on certain medications (especially medications related to blood pressure, heart disease, and mental health).

DHS Heat Safety Video

Who is Most At-Risk for Heat-Related Illness?

People at greatest risk for heath-related illness include infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, people who are overweight, those with chronic illness (especially heart or lung conditions and individuals who use certain medications. People who work outdoors or in hot settings should also be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness and take precautions.

Infants, especially less than 6 months, are at risk for overheating because they have difficulty regulating their body temperature.  Parents should:

  • Keep infants inside where it is cool and out of direct sunlight.
  • Dress infants in comfortable clothes. In hot weather, most babies will only need to wear a diaper and a onesie or similar clothing. Infants do not need to be wrapped in a blanket during extreme heat. Do not place a blanket over a car seat or carrier, as this can trap heat inside.
  • Infants under 6 months of age should not be given water, continue to breastfeed or give formula as usual.
  • Be aware of warning signs of dehydration for babies: An infant's urine may look dark and a child may have less urine in their diaper, a dry or sticky mouth, no tears when crying, not appear active or playful, and may not eat. 
  • Call your child’s doctor if baby has: Fewer than 6 wet diapers per day, gone more than 6 hours without a wet diaper, sunken soft spot on top of the head, or sunken eyes.

What are Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness?

Normally, the body will cool itself by sweating. People can suffer heat-related illness when the body's temperature control system becomes overloaded. In these cases, a person's body temperature can rise very rapidly. High body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs. Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, or experiences other types of illness during hot weather, contact a medical provider.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness. A person can develop heat exhaustion after several days of exposure to high temperatures and an inadequate replacement of fluids. Those most vulnerable to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment. If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it can progress into a more serious heat stroke. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.

Warning sign of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired, weak, or dizzy
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin may feel cool and moist
  • Pulse may be fast and weak
  • Breathing may be fast and shallow

If you see these signs, take steps to cool down the person's body by:

  • Drinking cool, non-alcoholic beverages
  • Rest
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • Find an air-conditioned environment
  • Wear lightweight clothing

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is very serious, and can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Heat stroke can occur when the body becomes unable to control its temperature and is unable to cool down.

Warning signs of heat stroke include:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

If you see any of these signs, have someone call for immediate medical assistance and begin cooling the victim by taking these steps:

  • Get the person to a shady or cool area.
  • Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, place the person in a tub of cool water or a cool shower, spray the person with cool water from a garden hose, or sponge the person with cool water. If the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan them vigorously.
  • Monitor the person's body temperature and continue cooling efforts until their temperature drops to 101-102 degrees.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the person alcohol to drink.

Wisconsin Extreme Heat Toolkit

Information for local governments, health departments, and citizens in Wisconsin regarding preperation and response to extreme heat events.

Click on the image above for additional resources in the Wisconsin Extreme Heat Toolkit.

Forget Something?

A hot car can be deadly. A parked car is no place for a child - even for a minute. Take them with you every time.

Help reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT.

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your doors and trunks – even in your driveway. And keep your keys and key fobs out of the reach of kids.
  • Create reminders. Place something you'll need at your next stop - like a briefcase or cell phone - next to the child safety seat.  It may seem simple, but can be a helpful reminder on a chaotic day.  
  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911.

Click to enlarge poster.  Cartel en Español

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