Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain in Summer – Chicago, IL
Chicago families beat the heat and humidity playing in the fountain at Millennium Park. Photo by Vincent Desjardins via Flickr CC BY 2.0
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Stay Cool in a Chicago Heat Wave with Heat Safety Resources

Although our Windy City may be better known for its cold, snowy winters, Chicagoans still know a thing or two about summer heat. A Chicago heat wave can send the temperature up well over ninety degrees, and our humidity means the heat index could soar even higher. This list is full of resources and safety tips for days when the hot Chicago weather just won’t quit, and features everything from area cooling center locations to advice on preventing heat exhaustion.

Seek relief at a cooling center: Area cooling centers can help keep you cool when air conditioning isn’t readily available.

In a heat wave, keeping cool and escaping the heat and humidity is important for health reasons. Keep Cool Illinois has partnered with several other government agencies to make more than 120 air-conditioned cooling centers available state-wide (including more than 20 in the Chicago area alone). If you don’t have access to air conditioning, or if yours happens to go on the fritz, making use of a cooling center when the heat index is high can make the difference between staying healthy and experiencing possible heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion.

Photo by: Jason Kuffer from East Harlem, USA, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Keep your home cool: During the day, keep your blinds or curtains closed to block out the sun’s heat.

Keep Cool Illinois offers more than just cooling centers to beat high Chicago temperatures. The partnership between several local and state agencies also offers a variety of programs, including some that can help with your energy costs and home weatherization. Their money and energy-saving tips include ways to help make sure your air-conditioning unit and refrigerator are operating efficiently during the hottest of days.

Know what the heat index means: Humidity levels can make 80-degree temperatures feel like triple-digit heat.

What is a heat wave? The National Weather Service says it’s a period of uncomfortably hot and humid weather that typically lasts two or more days. On the other hand, when summer heat is more than just a nuisance, the NWS may issue a heat advisory, when the maximum heat index is expected to hit 105 degrees. Their useful heat index chart details how humidity affects what it feels like outside — for example, when 88 degrees Fahrenheit can feel like 102.

Understand heat illness warning signs: Northwestern Memorial Hospital says the symptoms of heat exhaustion generally include muscle cramping, aching pain, headaches, nausea, weakness, intense thirst, feeling faint or dizzy, or an increased pulse rate.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers reminders on the key elements of summer heat safety: Keep hydrated, seek the shade, and avoid outdoors activity during peak hours, from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Regardless, it’s important to recognize the signs of heat illness, such as nausea, disorientation and headache, and to act quickly. Northwestern recommends calling emergency responders, moving the affected person to a cool area, and offering electrolyte drinks.

By Alanscottwalker (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
By Alanscottwalker (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0


Beat the heat at city fountains:
In Adams Sangamon Park, the “fog fountain’s” misty spray can be a fun way to cool off.

When the Chicago temperature rises, outdoor fountains, such as the one at the West Loop’s Adams Sangamon Park, serve as more than public art. At just over 15 feet tall, this park’s fog fountain is tall enough for kids and adults to enjoy its refreshing spray. If you’re not near the West Loop, Time Out Chicago offers a list of spraygrounds in the city and the suburbs.

Remember your pets: Don’t leave pets in hot cars, even with the windows cracked.

The Lake Shore Animal Shelter reminds us to take good care of pets in the summer heat by not leaving them in cars or stuffy rooms. They also offer details on the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs, such as heavy panting, lethargy and vomiting, and advise on how to provide first aid for an ailing pup.

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