Minimize heat-related health risks and conserve energy with some preventive measures

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High temperatures can do far more than just make you uncomfortable. Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death. In fact, in 2012, 155 people died due to hot weather, according to the National Weather Service.

As temperatures climb in Texas, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself, your family and your home from the negative effects of heat. Be aware that while heat-related illnesses can affect everyone, very young children, senior citizens and people with other health problems such as heart disease or obesity are at greater risk.

To stay safe in summer heat, remember these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water − at least one glass every 20 minutes while you’re exposed to extreme heat.
  • Dress appropriately. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of absorbent cotton is best. If you’ll be in the sun a lot, long sleeves and pants in a lightweight material will afford your skin more protection than short sleeves and shorts.
  • Eat light. Heavy meals and spicy foods will make you feel hotter, and could lead to stomach upset in high heat.
  • Never leave children, pets, disabled people or older folks sitting in a car. A study by GM and San Francisco State University found that when outside temperatures are just 80 degrees (relatively mild compared to true Texas summer heat), the temperature inside a car can reach a dangerous 109 degrees in just 20 minutes. Imagine how much hotter a car interior can get in 100-degree heat − and in much less time.
  • Learn the signs of heat-related illnesses. Heavy sweating, muscle cramps and spasms in the legs or abdomen may indicate heat cramps. Treat with firm pressure or gentle massage, and remember to sip water. Heat exhaustion may be characterized by cool, pale and clammy skin, overall weakness, a weak pulse, dizziness, vomiting or nausea and fainting. Get the victim to a cool room, loosen or remove clothing and apply cool compresses to bring down the body temperature. Headache, dizziness, shallow breathing, confusion, a high temperature and nausea may indicate heat stroke. Seek medical care immediately if you suspect heat stroke.

Take steps to lower the temperature in your home, office or other environment, including:

  • Use a programmable thermostat and ceiling fans to maximize cooling efficiency.
  • Replace hot incandescent bulbs, which turn 90 percent of the energy they use into heat, with cooler bulbs such as CFLs or LEDs. These bulbs are cool to the touch and they use about 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  • Keep blinds and drapes closed to prevent hot sun from entering rooms.
  • Seal air leaks around ducts, windows, doors, fireplace flues and plumbing pipes to ensure cooled air stays inside your home.
  • Replace HVAC filters monthly to keep the system operating at peak efficiency.

You can find more energy-saving tips at