Weathering the heat and climate change

How to adjust to hotter summer stretches in the Pacific Northwest.

Media Contact: Susan Gregg,, 206-390-3226.

Confusion and loss of consciousness are the biggest red flags to seek medical help during sweltering summer weather, UW Medicine emergency medicine physician Dr. Stefan Wheat says.

“That means you need to go to the hospital. You need to go to the emergency room. That is a sign of heatstroke, which is the life-threatening medical emergency that we worry about most," he cautions. 

To protect against severe symptoms of overheating, Wheat encourages people to pay attention to weather forecasts. When it's hot outside, he says to seek cooler air indoors as much as possible and stay hydrated. He also suggests checking in on family and friends who are more vulnerable to the heat.

Climate change is making heat waves more common in the Pacific Northwest.

“We're seeing those kinds of events happen more frequently. They're lasting longer, and they're more intense, which means that they're hotter. Climate change is driving all of that,”  Wheat notes.

With future summer heat waves more likely, he says people whose occupations or activities involve long spans outside can better acclimate to hot weather by using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tips for heat stress acclimatization, Wheat says.

Adapting slowly and gradually to the heat, he says, "allows your body time to ramp up those physiologic changes.”

Ideally the adjustment should last one to two weeks, according to research published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine and the Annual Review of Physiology.

Read a full list of heat-related illness symptoms from the CDC. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Wheat discussing how to weather heat stretches and climate change. 

UW Medicine