How to stay cool as extreme heat takes hold in Nevada

A man hides under what little shade was available, Friday, July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas. Nearly a third of Americans were under extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings Friday, including in Las Vegas as a high pressure dome moves west from Texas. (AP Photo/Ty O'Neil)

By Jannelle Calderón

June 3, 2024

Triple digit temperatures are the unofficial start to summer in southern Nevada, but with extreme heat conditions, preparedness is key to avoiding heat-related injuries or even death.

For the last couple of years, Las Vegas and Reno were named the fastest-warming cities in the country, meaning already hot summers are getting hotter.

While summer remains roughly three weeks away, Harry Reid International Airport registered the first 100 degree day of the year on May 17, and daily highs reached around 100 degrees for the remainder of the month. And as June gets underway, the year’s first 110 degree day in the Las Vegas Valley is expected this week as temperatures are projected to reach as high as 112 degrees on Thursday, triggering an extreme heat warning from the National Weather Service.

Extreme heat days refer to days with temperatures exceeding 106 degrees — a level at which people can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, in 2023, there were 294 heat associated deaths in southern Nevada, a 78% increase compared to the 165 heat associated deaths in 2022.

Staying cool in southern Nevada can be challenging, especially when not everyone experiences heat the same way, home air conditioning might break, or some neighborhoods might be hotter than others.

But it’s crucial to staying healthy as temperatures rise.

How to stay cool in the desert

When it comes to extreme temperatures, preparedness is key to avoiding injuries or even death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends avoiding being outdoors for long periods of time or only going out in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler, and using the stove and oven less to keep the home cool. The agency also recommends staying hydrated and wearing sunscreen and sun protection, such as hats, when out in the sun.

Certain people are at higher risk of suffering heat-related illnesses, including infants and young children, people over 65 years of age, people who are overweight, or have other conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or poor circulation.

Staying cool might not just look like staying at home. Public pools and splash pads, indoor malls, and libraries might also bring some relief.

Clark County officials have established emergency cooling centers around the county for pedestrians, people experiencing homelessness, and people who might just need to get out of the heat. Cooling centers include community centers, recreation centers, senior centers, and spaces offered by nonprofit service providers that provide water. A map of locations can be found here.

What is heat-related illness?

According to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), most heat-related medical issues occur because people get overexposed to heat or over exercise for their age and physical condition.

Heat-related illnesses include sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

SNHD describes heat exhaustion as the body’s response to losing too much water and salt through sweat. Symptoms include heavy sweating, nausea or vomiting, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache, and fainting. People experiencing heat exhaustion should move to a cool place, loosen up their clothes, sip water, and seek medical attention if symptoms get worse.

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises rapidly — to 103 degrees or higher — and can no longer sweat to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not received. It is a medical emergency and 911 should be called.

A new way to look at heat data

The Biden administration and the US Department of Health and Human Services announced last week a new tool that provides data from ZIP-codes across the country to help state and local officials identify communities most affected by extreme heat.

The data from the Heat and Health Index (HHI) is expected to ensure that outreach, support and resources reach the people who need it most, and help public health officials, city planners, and lawmakers prioritize community resilience investments.

The HHI combines temperature data and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) data on heat-related emergency responses, as well as data on community and environmental characteristics, including pre-existing health conditions, socio-demographic information, poverty, age, access to a vehicle, and tree coverage.

The HHI portal will be updated periodically with the release of new data, HHS said in the announcement.

  • Jannelle Calderón

    Jannelle Calderón is a bilingual politics and community multimedia reporter with a passion to highlight the human side to policy and issues as well as showcasing the vibrant cultures found in Southern Nevada. She previously reported for The Nevada Independent and graduated from UNLV.

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