Many people pass off heat waves, saying, "It's supposed to be hot in summer!"
But they're underestimating the power of extreme heat.
It kills more Americans every year than any other weather event, including floods.
And heat sickens many others, causing problems from muscle cramps to nausea to exhaustion.
Urban and suburban residents may be more vulnerable to the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas.
That's because of the "heat island" effect - night-time temperatures in cities don't fall enough for the body to fully recover from one day to the next..
To reduce your heat-stress, the Red Cross has some common-sense reminders.
* Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
* Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
* Eat small meals and eat more often. Overwhelming your stomach may cause indigestion, because much of your blood supply is trying to keep you cool. If you exercise for more than 45 minutes, wait an hour before you eat, to allow the blood which is in your muscles return to your digestive tract.
* Avoid extreme temperature changes. That super-air-conditioned store may seem good at first, but it can stress your body.
* Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun's rays.
* Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
* Postpone outdoor games and activities.
* Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat, and take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
* Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
* Check on your pets frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
* If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls).
Heat exhaustion can occur quickly, or build up over time. It often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers, factory workers, and those wearing heavy clothes in a hot, humid environment.
Signs of heat exhaustion:
cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin
Someone suffering heat exhaustion should be moved to a cooler environment with circulating air - it helps lower their core body temperature.
Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin.
Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help.
Small amounts (4 ounces every 15 minutes) of a cool beverage such as a commercial sports drink or fruit juice will restore fluids and electrolytes.
Milk or water may also be given.
Heat is deadly - but these tips can keep you healthy
Heat causes more deaths than all other weather events, including floods