Minnesota heat wave: Tips to stay cool and safe during extreme heat | Fitness tips of the day

It’s officially the hottest time of year so far in Minnesota.

A heat wave is raising temperatures across much of Minnesota into the 90s this week, and possibly past 100 degrees. It’s expected to continue through the end of the week into August.

Wondering how to stay cool? What precautions to take outside in the heat? Here are some tips on what you can do to stay safe during an excessive heat wave.

Tips for staying safe outdoors

  • The American Red Cross advises staying in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If outdoor activity is necessary, limit going outside to early or late in the day.

  • Stay hydrated with water, “even if you don’t feel thirsty,” the National Weather Service says

  • The NWS also advises to “minimize direct exposure to sunlight. Sunburns reduce the body’s ability to dissipate heat.”

  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

  • Eat light, cool, easily digestible foods like fruits or salads. If you’re taking food out, pack it in a cooler and avoid having meats and dairy products that can spoil quickly in the heat from sitting out too long.

  • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage. Prolonged time in the sun could lead to sunburn and heat stroke. Other risks include skin cancer.

    A group of girls do backflips into Lake Nokomis during a heat wave in Minneapolis.

    Tim Evans for MPR News | 2021

Tips for staying safe indoors

  • Keep your window shades closed during the hottest times of day. You can also use window reflectors specifically designed to mirror heat back outside.

  • Take cool showers or baths.

  • Use portable fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cool air and be careful to not direct the airflow towards yourself when room temperature is hotter than 90 degrees. It can dehydrate you faster.

  • Check your air conditioner at home and clean the filters. Make sure there isn’t debris, leaves or dirt in the vents.

  • If you don’t have an air-conditioning unit, make sure to keep a list of local cooling places. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the early morning and evening times to cool down the home by opening all the windows to exhaust hot air. The World Health Organization also suggests hanging wet towels to cool down the room air.

Protecting your pets from the heat

  • Keep your pets indoors or limit their outdoor exercise. Make sure they have access to plenty of shade and water.

  • Don’t let them stand on hot asphalt. It can burn their paws and feet. If the ground is too hot to hold your hand on for 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog, according to the American Kennel Club.

  • Try walking them during the early morning and late evening when it’s cooler. Keep their walks to a minimum, according to ASPCA.

  • Watch out for signs of a heat stroke, like glazed eyes, heavy panting, lethargy or vomiting, according to the Animal Humane Society. If you observe these signs, they advise putting cool water on the animal’s legs, either running water on them or standing them in a kiddie pool or bathtub. This will help lower their body temp.

  • Temperatures inside of vehicles can increase rapidly and be dangerous for children, pets and even adults. Don’t sit in a hot car for long and never leave pets or children in a vehicle on a hot day — cracking windows is not enough.

Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion can develop after exposure to high temperatures and inadequate intake of fluids, according to the CDC. The elderly, children, those with high blood pressure and people working or exercising in a hot environment are most prone to this condition.

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Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating

  • Paleness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fainting

If you are experiencing these symptoms, drink cool beverages, move to an air-conditioned environment, take a cool shower and wear lightweight clothing.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, occurring when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. It can be life-threatening or cause permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)

  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)

  • Rapid, strong pulse

  • Throbbing headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Unconsciousness

If someone is experiencing a heat stroke, CDC advises seeking immediate medical assistance. In the meantime, move the person to a location with shade and use cool cloths or water to lower their body temperature. Only give them water if they are awake and alert enough to swallow.

Find more information from the CDC here.

Cooling centers in Minnesota

For homeless people or those without access to air conditioning, cooling centers are a must. Many city-owned buildings offer cooling center hours in the summer, such as libraries or recreation centers. The Salvation Army will also offer cooling center hours at seven of their Twin Cities metro locations. 

Salvation Army, Twin Cities metro 

Cooling centers are generally open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the following locations. 

  • Salvation Army Temple, 1604 E. Lake St., Minneapolis 

  • Salvation Army Parkview, 2024 Lyndale Ave. N., Minneapolis

  • Salvation Army Noble, 10011 Noble Pkwy., Brooklyn Park 

  • Salvation Army Eastside, 1019 Payne Ave., St. Paul 

  • Salvation Army Citadel, 401 West 7th Street., St. Paul

  • Salvation Army Lakewood, 2080 Woodlynn Ave., St. Paul 

  • Salvation Army Central, 2727 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Ramsey and Hennepin County offer interactive maps with cooling centers available. Explore the Ramsey County map here, and the Hennepin County one here.

St. Paul Public Library Director Maureen Hartman said libraries are often overlooked as cooling centers, but encouraged those in need to go to Ramsey or Hennepin County locations during the heatwave. 

“It shouldn’t be, but it is a secret libraries are cooling centers, but they always have been. Library services continue to evolve, and they evolve with the needs of our community. As the heat kicks up, it is a really good reminder for people to check out their local public library,” she said. 

Hartman said people should not be worried about overstaying their visit – they are allowed to use the library from open to close. For the most updated hours of your branch, check their website. 

Youth needing to cool off can seek out Avenues for Youth, 1708 Oak Park Ave., N, Minneapolis. They also can contact the Hennepin County shelter hotline at 612-204-8200 or check the Youth Services Network for bed availability if they need a place for overnight.

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