Heat Safety (Adults, Children and Pets)

sunStay aware to stay cool. There are simple measures you can take to protect yourself, your family, pets and neighbors.


Heat Safety Basics

To keep cool as the summertime heat continues, Fairfax County encourages residents to follow this general advice:

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink water even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages because they dehydrate the body.
  • Keep cool indoors: If you can, stay in an air-conditioned area. Resting for just two hours in air conditioning can significantly reduce heat-related illnesses. Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theathers, shopping malls and other community facilities.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but with temperatures in the 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Plan outdoor activities around the heat: If you must go outside, go before noon or at night when it's cooler.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activities or reschedule them for the coolest part of the day, usually the early morning. Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
  • Eat light meals, avoiding high-protein foods because they increase metabolic heat.
  • Don’t take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, which helps reflect sunlight.
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Sunburn makes it more difficult for your body to cool off.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in a car—not even for a few minutes.
  • Ensure your home's cooling system is working properly before it is truly needed.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the cool air inside.

Cooling Centers

Residents may visit Cooling Centers held at county facilities such as senior centers, RECenters, community centers and libraries for temporary respite from the heat, however, residents should call the facility first to verify hours of operation.

Heat-Related Illness and Heat Stroke

Be alert for the signs of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. It occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, loses its ability to sweat and is unable to cool down. There are several warning signs people should look for during prolonged, extreme heat exposure:

  • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Dizziness, nausea, paleness
  • Throbbing headache
  • Shallow, fast breathing

If these symptoms are present, call for immediate medical assistance because heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided quickly. While medics are en route, caretakers should get the symptomatic person to a cool, shady area.

Cooling the person with a hose, cool shower or tub bath is important. Monitoring the person’s temperature and continuing cooling efforts are critical.

From 1979 to 1999, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

Helping the Vulnerable Through Extreme Heat

The needs of Fairfax County’s vulnerable populations, including the homeless, older adults and those with special medical needs, are heightened during conditions such as extreme heat.

Residents who know individuals needing special attention are encouraged to take a few minutes to check in on them to ensure their well-being. If residents need immediate, life-saving help, call 9-1-1. For other safety help, call the public safety non-emergency phone number at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.

Heat takes the greatest toll on the very young and the very old, especially children younger than 5 and those older than 65. Intense summer temperatures also greatly affect people who are already sick or take certain medications, including diuretics, antihistamines, beta-blockers and tranquilizers.

Fairfax County residents who need help to keep their homes cool this summer and prevent a health emergency resulting from extreme heat, may be able to get assistance from two programs locally administered by the county:

Residents who need immediate help with utility bills or other urgent human services assistance can call the county’s Coordinated Services Planning staff at 703-222-0880, TTY 703-803-7914. County staff can connect residents with a network of services provided by public, private and community-based organizations, as well as appropriate county government resources.

Keep Pets Cool

Fairfax County Animal Control Officers respond to dozens of reports of animals locked in hot cars in parking lots each summer and urge pet owners to keep pets at home on hot days.

Pet owners are urged to remember the following tips:

  • Never leave pets in a parked car. On a warm day, temperatures can rapidly rise to dangerous levels. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact police. Even with the windows slightly open, the temperature in a car on a 93-degree day can soar to 125 degrees in just 20 minutes and approximately 140 degrees in 40 minutes.
  • Shade and water are vital to pets. Pet owners must provide adequate shelter protecting animals from injury, rain, sleet, snow, hail, direct sunlight, and adverse effects of heat or cold. A dog house in the backyard with no access to shade does not protect animals from sun.
  • Limit exercise on hot days. Take care to adjust intensity and duration of exercise. Watch for shortness of breath and remember that asphalt gets very hot and can burn paws; walk your dog on the grass if possible.
  • If your pet shows any of the following signs contact your veterinarian immediately:
    • heavy panting
    • glazed eyes
    • rapid heartbeat
    • vomiting
    • fever
    • dizziness
    • restlessness
    • excessive thirst
    • profuse salivation
  • Take steps to reduce the animal’s body temperature; apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck and chest, provide water and ice cubes for hydration, and move the animal into the shade or air-conditioning.

More Information


Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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