Backyard barbecues and poolside parties could be derailed this summer, according to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year earlier. The health organization offered tips for those seeking to enjoy summertime to the fullest earlier this month.

According to the CDC, staying cool starts with staying indoors during the hottest periods of the day. Air conditioning is key, and contrary to popular belief, fans are no substitute. According to the CDC, fans are ineffective at preventing heat-related illnesses past 90 degrees.

Angelenos without air conditioning might find it harder to keep cool, which is why many cities across California have turned to public cooling centers for its community. Often set up at community and senior centers, these locations offer safety from the sweltering sun, water to stay hydrated and special accommodations for those living with disabilities. Directions to your nearest cooling center can be found at the Los Angeles County website.

Scheduling is just as important, the CDC warned. Outdoor activities and exercise should be done in the morning and evening, especially by anyone unaccustomed to high temperatures. Staying hydrated becomes even more important during physical activity in the heat, but everyone should keep water handy all summer long. Sugary drinks and alcohol should be avoided. Instead, drink water or sports drinks, to replace minerals lost through sweating.

Sweating is an important part of the body’s defense against heat, but forgetting sunscreen can make cooling down difficult for the human body. For that reason, the CDC has advised that sunscreen is critical, even if you’re working on your tan.

But even after taking these precautions, heatstroke still threatens those vulnerable, such as the elderly and children. Signs of heatstroke include hot, red, dry, or damp skin, racing heartbeat, headache and confusion, and nausea. The CDC said not to delay with such symptoms, and call 911 right away. In the meantime, anyone experiencing such symptoms should be moved to a cooler area and given water.

Heat exhaustion and heat cramps, while requiring less immediate medical attention, are just as serious. Heat exhaustion presents with cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast but weak pulse, and heavy sweating. Heat cramps, on the other hand, occur during exercise and other physical activities. Taking a break and moving somewhere cooler can help both conditions, while taking a cool bath can also help with heat exhaustion. However, if symptoms last longer than an hour in either case go to the emergency room.

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