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Excessive Heat: Everything you need to know to stay cool, safe

Colorado River Drought
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 22:46:36-04

PHOENIX — Heat is the number one weather-related killer, not just in Arizona but across the nation. According to the National Weather Service, heat kills more people than tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and lightning combined.

In 2021, Arizona hospitals saw 2,873 heat-related emergency room visits and a record 552 deaths, according to officials.

Hydration is a crucial component of keeping yourself healthy as temperatures soar. The National Weather Service recommends that you drink at least 32 ounces of water every hour.

Both Maricopa and Pinal counties have heat relief stations where anyone can get bottled water and seek refuge from the heat. For a map of locations, click here.

You can find ABC15’s Most Accurate Forecast here.

Excessive Heat Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for excessive heat within two to seven days. These watches are meant to give you a heads up that dangerously hot temperatures are on the way and you should consider adjusting your outdoor plans. You’ll want to plan your schedule so that you’re getting outdoor activities done early in the morning when it’s cooler. Also, make sure that you have plenty of water ready to go.

Excessive Heat Warnings are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring or is imminent. These warnings indicate that temperatures will soar to levels that could be deadly.

The National Weather Service also issues Heat Advisories within 12 hours of the start of extremely dangerous heat conditions.

It’s important that you’re taking precautions to avoid heat illness throughout our hot summer months, especially when any of these alerts are issued.

Remember to limit your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Bring your pets inside and make sure they have plenty of water, too. Check on your elderly friends and neighbors to make sure they’re managing to stay cool.

Also, remember to always check the backseat before walking away from your vehicle. Never leave kids or pets behind as temperatures inside the vehicle could be nearly 20 degrees hotter than outside within just 10 minutes.

You should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness.

Heat cramps, which can consist of muscle spasms or cramps can be an early sign of heat illness. If you begin experiencing these, it’s important that you get to a cooler place and start hydrating. The National Weather Service recommends drinking ½ a glass of water every 15 minutes.

Heavy sweating, a headache, an upset stomach or vomiting, and dizziness could be a sign of heat exhaustion. Your skin may also feel cool or moist and look pale or flushed. If you begin experiencing these symptoms you’ll want to immediately get to a cooler location and start hydrating. Watch your symptoms and if they worsen, you should call for help immediately.

Heatstroke can be deadly. If you’re feeling hot, dizzy, or confused, or if you have a rapid pulse and shallow breathing, you could be experiencing heatstroke. It’s time to call 9-1-1.

The National Weather Service advises that you immerse yourself in a cold bath or wrap a wet sheet around your body and turn on the air conditioning or a fan. They say if you’re helping someone who is experiencing heatstroke and they’re refusing to drink water or throwing up, don’t give them anything to eat or drink.

While hot temperatures are common and expected in Arizona each year, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

Heat illness and heat deaths are preventable and there are ways to protect yourself.


How to protect yourself from the heat (info from ADHS):

  • Drink water (1-2 liters per hour if you’re outdoors). Your body can lose up to 4 liters of water per hour during strenuous activity.
  • Dress accordingly. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Apply sunscreen on exposed skin.
  • Eat smaller meals more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein which increases metabolic heat.
  • Slow down and avoid strenuous activity, especially during the hottest hours of the day
  • Take breaks and stay out of the heat as much as possible

Know the signs of heat illness (info from ADHS):

  • Thirst: By the time your body tells you that you are thirsty, you are already mildly dehydrated.
  • Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles or the legs. The loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes heat cramps.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is less dangerous than heatstroke. It typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss causes blood flow to decrease in the vital organs, resulting in a form of shock. With heat exhaustion, sweat does not evaporate as it should, possibly because of high humidity or too many layers of clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. Signals include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heatstroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red, and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high—sometimes as high as 105° F.
    What to do if someone is suffering from heat-related illness

How to handle heat-illness emergencies (info from ADHS):

  • For heat cramps or heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have the person rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids with alcohol in them, as they can make conditions worse. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels or wet sheets or mist with water. Get the person into an air-conditioned space if possible. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.
  • For heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation! Help is needed fast. Call 911. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body using any means available, including cool water and ice. If you have ice packs or cold packs, wrap them in a cloth and place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. (Do not use rubbing alcohol because it closes the skin's pores and prevents heat loss.) Wrap wet sheets around the body and place the person in front of a fan or air conditioner. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
    Safely hiking in the heat

Pets and heat:
Even on days when it’s not that “hot” outside, the ground and cars heat up quickly:

  • Hot cars: If the outside temperature is just 80 degrees, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says it takes just 10 minutes for the internal car temperature to reach 99 degrees, 20 minutes to reach 109 degrees, 30 minutes to reach 114 degrees, and 60 minutes to reach 123 degrees.
  • Hot ground: Arizona Humane Society says asphalt can reach 160-180 degrees or more during the hot summer months. Be sure to walk your pets early in the morning or later at night to avoid the hot ground. Use the back of your hand to test the pavement before letting your barefoot pets walk on them. Booties can also be a good resource to protect their feet. If your pet has burnt paws, cool their feet with cool water and bandage each paw or protect it with a clean sock.
  • Signs of heat illness: Pets may get red gums, loud and rapid panting, changes in drool, glazed eyes, weakness, seizures, vomiting/diarrhea and more when heatstroke comes on. Move them to a cool place, place a cool, wet cloth on their bellies, ears, paws and neck and place a fan on them. Do not use cold water which may shock your dog, force water or leave your pet alone.
  • What to do about animals in distress: "All animals are required to have appropriate shelter, ventilation and drinkable water under city, county and state laws," according to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Arizona Humane Society lists “dogs repeatedly left alone (possibly chained) outside without food, water or shelter,” “dogs kept outside during extreme heat, cold, rain, snow, etc. with no shelter,” and “pets left in parked cars (during hot weather)” as abuse. For more information on how to report abuse, click here.
    How fast can the inside of a car get dangerously hot?


  • Need a drink or place to cool off? Heat Relief Networks (Maricopa and Pinal counties) offer free air-conditioned spaces and free water for those who need it
  • Need help paying your air-conditioning bill? You may qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Need a ride to get out of the heat? Solari, Inc. partnered with Lyft and APS to provide free rides to the nearest cooling shelter for eligible Arizonans who call 2-1-1 Arizona for assistance. More info here.
  • In need of emergency A/C repair? Healthy Homes Air Conditioning Program – In partnership with FSL, APS will help address heat-related health hazards for vulnerable households in Maricopa, La Paz, Pinal and Yuma counties by supporting emergency repair or replacement of air conditioning systems during the hot summer months. More info here.
  • Need emergency shelter or eviction protection help? In partnership with St. Vincent de Paul, APS will help ensure families have a place to seek shelter either at home through eviction-prevention assistance or at their summer emergency shelter. More info here.
Weatherization assistance programs available in Arizona