|87° is Hot
More than just hot. 87°F is the point at which we start to see serious health effects of heat in Vermont.
Extreme heat can lead to life-threatening emergencies.
Know how to recognize risk factors and respond to warning signs, and learn what precautions to take when it's hot.
If you have a medical emergency call 9-1-1
Heat Can Lead to Serious Illness
Heat illnesses can be deadly. In extreme heat situations, sometimes your body's temperature control systems can't keep up. When that happens, your body temperature gets dangerously high. As a result, you are at greater risk of serious heat illness, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and sunburn.
Heat Worsens Chronic Health Conditions
Heat usually kills by worsening existing chronic health conditions. For the many Vermonters over the age of 65 who have a chronic condition — such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes — temperatures over 87°F put them at a high risk of life-threatening illness. People who feel unwell or faint due to extreme heat are also vulnerable to serious or deadly falls.
People with chronic conditions may not show classical signs of heat illness but rather worsened symptoms of their condition. If you or someone you know has a potentially dangerous chronic condition and begins to feel ill during a hot day, pay very close attention. If you have concerns about a person's condition, seek immediate medical attention.
Anyone Can be Affected by Heat Illnesses
Heat illnesses are a real danger, even here in our northern climate. Vermonters go to the emergency department for heat illnesses just as often as people in Maryland.
Being young does not protect you from heat illness. In fact, both people over the age of 85 and those of high-school age are at double the risk of going to the emergency department for a heat-related reason than the average Vermonter.
- STAY COOL. Stay inside, in air-conditioning if you can, or in cool places such as basements. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Take cool showers. Sleep without sheets. Draw the shades to keep out morning and afternoon sun.
- STAY HYDRATED. Drink more water than usual, especially if exercising or active outdoors. Be proactive, don’t wait until you are thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they make you lose water.
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Take it easy. Reduce exercise and limit it to the cooler parts of the day. If you feel sick, ask for help. Stop what you are doing if you feel faint or weak. Heat can worsen existing chronic health conditions.
- DON’T BE A STRANGER. Check on your loved ones and neighbors, especially if they are elderly or have chronic health conditions. Make sure they are drinking enough water and are staying cool. Remind them to take heat seriously!
- NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN, ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES, OR PETS IN A PARKED VEHICLE. Just don’t do it. The sun can turn a vehicle into an oven within minutes, even if it doesn’t feel hot outside.
- STAY INFORMED. Follow local weather and news reports. Monitor Health Department and Vermont Emergency Management social media. Sign up to receive alerts from vtalert.gov.
If you have concerns about your or someone else's health, dial 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.
Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, 39°C)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
What to do
Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. If you see any of these signs, call for immediate medical assistance.
While waiting for help to arrive:
- Get the person to a shady area.
- Cool them by rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
- Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
- If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
- If heat stroke has already started, do not give the victim fluids to drink.
- Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Sometimes heat stroke can cause muscles to begin to twitch uncontrollably. If this happens, keep the person from injuring themselves, but do not place any object in their mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the person on his or her side.
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to losing too much water and salt contained in sweat. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
The skin may be cool and moist. The person's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow.
What to do
Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:
- Symptoms are severe
- The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure
Otherwise, help the victim to cool off. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.
Try to cool the person down with:
- Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
- Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
- An air-conditioned environment
- Lightweight clothing
Heat cramps usually affect people during or after heavy exercise, because the body loses too much salt and moisture through sweating. Heat cramps can also be a sign of heat exhaustion.
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms—usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
What to do
If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps. Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not stop in 1 hour. Otherwise do the following:
- Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
- Drink clear juice or a sports drink.
- Rest for a few hours after the cramps stop, because starting to exercise again too early could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.
Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It often appears on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.
What to do
Treating heat rash usually does not require medical assistance.
- Provide a cooler, less humid environment.
- Keep the affected area dry.
- Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.
Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and heals in about a week, more severe sunburn may require medical attention.
Skin does not have to feel hot to get burned. Symptoms of sunburn include the skin becoming red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure. See a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age, or if these symptoms are present:
- Fluid-filled blisters
- Severe pain
What to do
- Avoid repeated sun exposure.
- Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
- Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
- Do not break blisters.
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, and apply at least 20-30 minutes before going outside.
Vermont data indicates that people with certain physical or mental conditions are at greater risk of serious illness, or even death, on days where the temperature exceeded 87°F.
Data from a comparison of death records and temperature records from 1999 to 2012, indicate that the daily number of deaths among people over the age of 65 was about 8% higher on hot days (days when temperatures exceeded 87°F). The causes of death that were over-represented on hot days covered a broad range. Cardiovascular causes of death accounted for 42% of the extra deaths. Neurological conditions, especially Alzheimer’s diseases accounted for 19%. Furthermore, about 6% of the extra deaths resulted from falls.
Heat-related emergency department visits also went up during occurrences of extreme heat. Eight times as many such visits occurred on days over 87°F.
Younger people, who are usually considered more resistant to extreme heat, were accounting for many of these visits. 40% of cases were between the age of 15 and 34. High schoolers and those over the age of 85 were both twice as likely to visit an emergency department because of heat as the average Vermonter.
It may be that people living in warmer places have adapted to better tolerate higher and more extreme temperatures — their bodies are used to more heat, and they have adapted their buildings and lifestyles to hotter weather. In Vermont, 87°F is an important threshold. Know the dangers, and take precautions to stay cool and safe.
Extreme Heat Information