How to protect your health in extreme heat


CDPHE is committed to ensuring Coloradans have the information and resources they need to be safe and healthy during extreme heat.

Extreme heat and your health

Stay cool, hydrated, and informed to avoid heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat-related illnesses can damage the brain and other vital organs. These conditions occur when the body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool itself.

Know your heat risk


Stay cool during extreme heat

  • Stay in an air-conditioned area. If you do not have access to air conditioning, go to a shopping mall, library, or other place that does, like a cooling center — a place where you can cool down in hot weather — in your community. Call 211 to find out which cooling centers are open near you. Even a few hours in air conditioning can keep the body cool.
  • Limit outdoor activity to when it is coolest. Rest often and try to find areas with shade. Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Wear a hat and lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes (e.g. cotton, linen, sweat-wicking materials). Look for items made with fabrics having a UV protection factor of 30 or higher. 

Stay hydrated

  • Drink water often—don’t wait until you’re thirsty! 
  • Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol, which cause fluid loss. 
  • Check your urine color. When it’s light yellow or clear, it usually means you are drinking enough water. 
  • Talk with your medical provider if you have specific fluid restrictions that may need to be adjusted during heat season.

Keep loved ones safe during extreme heat

  • Check on your neighbors to ensure people in more isolated settings (e.g., rural settings, older individuals living alone, and those with disabilities) stay safe during extreme heat events. Watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • Provide pets with access to plenty of fresh water.

Take steps to prevent heat exhaustion

The National Weather Service provides guidance on how to prevent heat exhaustion. If you experience the following symptoms, move to a cooler environment, loosen clothing, apply cool, wet clothes, sit in a cool bath, and sip water. Seek immediate medical attention if you vomit, symptoms worsen, or last longer than 1 hour. 

  • Heavy sweating.
  • Weakness or tiredness.
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin.
  • Fast, weak pulse.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Headache. 
  • Fainting.

Heat stroke is a serious and life-threatening condition

Call 911 and seek emergency treatment if you experience signs of heat stroke, including:

  • Throbbing headache. 
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Body temperature above 103°F.
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin.
  • Rapid and strong pulse. 
  • Fainting.
  • Loss of consciousness.

For more information on how to stay safe in the heat, visit the CDC’s website.


Frequently asked questions

According to the National Weather Service, a heat wave can be any period of one or more days when the weather is hotter than usual. In Colorado, that usually means:

  • Two to three consecutive days at or above 97°F.
  • Multiple days when the temperature is 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region.

Heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, occur when the body cannot properly cool itself.  Normally, the body cools itself by sweating, but this might not be enough during extreme heat. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool down, which can damage the brain and other vital organs. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate emergency care.

Every person will respond to heat differently. Generally, days of extreme heat and periods of heat waves put most people at risk for adverse health impacts if they don’t take steps to get relief from the heat. Some people may be more susceptible to heat than others. For example, people with certain medical conditions, older adults, children, and people who are pregnant are more at risk of adverse impacts from heat than others, meaning they may be more likely to experience adverse health impacts under the same conditions. Never leave infants, small children, or pets in your car.

Stay cool by seeking shelter in indoor, air-conditioned places like air-conditioned homes and community centers, including shopping malls, public libraries, and cooling centers in your community. Even just a few hours of relief from the heat can cool your body enough to avoid heat-related illness. If possible, plan your outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day and seek shade. Drink plenty of water. When outdoors, seek shade, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Some counties set up cooling centers to help their communities beat the heat. To find a cooling center in your community, contact your local Office of Emergency Management or call 211.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Breathable fabrics made of cotton, linen, rayon, chambray, or synthetic blends can help you stay cool in the summer. Look for items with a UV protection factor over 30. A wide-brimmed hat will provide shade and keep your head cool.

When outdoors, apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF 20 minutes before going outside and reapply according to the package directions. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids, which can worsen the impacts of hot temperatures.

Yes. Age is a risk factor because older adults do not adjust as well to changes in temperature compared to when they were younger. They are also more likely to have a chronic medical condition that alters the body's normal response to heat. Prescription medicine use is also common in older adults. Some prescription medicines can impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature or can inhibit perspiration.

Extreme heat can impact anyone, and it is important to take actions that help the body cool itself to prevent heat-related illness.

People who fall into these categories are more likely to be impacted by extreme heat

  • Cardiovascular conditions, such as a history of heart attacks, stroke, or heart failure.
  • Respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer.
  • Limited or no access to safe, air-conditioned, or cool shelter, including those experiencing homelessness, young people who may not live in a safe home environment, people who may experience domestic violence at home, etc. 
  • Incarceration. 
  • Obesity.
  • Infants and children.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Outdoor workers, and indoor workers in buildings without air conditioning, with poor temperature controls, working with equipment that produces heat or steam, or with inadequate ventilation.  
  • Athletes.
  • People with mental illnesses.
  • People who use alcohol and other substances. 

If you have to work while it's hot outside, take the appropriate steps to prevent heat illness. Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar, and wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package. If possible, complete outdoor tasks earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat. When working outside, wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work, if possible. Encourage coworkers to take breaks to cool off and drink water. Know the signs of heat illness, and be cognizant of symptoms in yourself and coworkers. If you feel faint or weak, stop all activity and get to a cool place.

It’s not just people who work outside who need to be cautious in extreme heat. Heat-related illness can happen to people who work inside, especially if:

  • Your workplace lacks well-functioning air conditioning or has poor ventilation.
  • You work with hot equipment or machinery.
  • Your work is physically demanding.

Know the signs of heat illness, no matter what your work is, to protect yourself and your coworkers. For more information on worker health and safety, refer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website.

Yes, heat can interact with some medications and affect the body’s ability to sweat, which regulates body temperature. These medications include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, diuretics, sleep aids, Parkinson's drugs, and medications for high blood pressure, to name a few. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine if your medications will interact with the heat. 

Extreme weather events can affect mental health. Extreme heat can be an additional stressor for someone with behavioral health conditions, and people with these conditions may have a harder time taking steps to protect themselves from extreme heat. Certain medications that some people take to manage mental health conditions may also interact with heat. Talk with your healthcare provider about how summer heat may impact your mental health. To learn more, visit the CDC’s Climate and Health: Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders webpage.

Alcohol and other substance use can contribute to an increased risk of heat-related illness. Alcohol and other substances can impact your body’s ability to regulate and respond to heat, making you more likely to experience an adverse health impact from the heat or from substance use. Some drugs can predispose an individual to heat-related illness. Stimulants can raise body temperature and cause dehydration, while opioids and benzodiazepines can mask heat stroke symptoms. People using substances may also struggle with basic needs, putting them at a higher risk of adverse health outcomes due to increased heat exposure. 


Protecting populations from extreme heat 


Planning and preparing

The following are tools and resources for preparing for heat events and learning more about the risk of extreme heat.