How to Tell the Difference Between Being Really Hot, and Being Dangerously Hot

It’s your last chance to take advantage of some sweltering summer heat — don’t let it be your last chance, permanently.

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Some of you may hate it, and some of you may rejoice at the news, but it’s happening all the same: Summer is ending. For many across the country, the changing seasons spell shorter days and rapidly dropping temperatures.

But that doesn’t mean summer can’t rear it’s sweltering head one last time for one last heat wave. From L.A. to Austin, Charlotte and Cincinnati, temperatures in September can, and often do, still reach the 90s, even the 100s. And when it’s that hot out, you feel it — you feel it in your bones. Most of the time, we can take the heat fine, and not be any worse for the wear. But when do we go from merely being really, really hot, to being dangerously hot?

That threshold — i.e., the point at which you start to physically overheat, called heatstroke — might initially be subtle, but as it becomes more acute, comes with some very real symptoms, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Two big ones that should give you some pause to consider that, hey, maybe you might be in some trouble are flushed skin and decreased sweating. Like when we work out, the former occurs because our blood vessels widen near the outer layers of skin in an attempt to cool down the body. The latter occurs — perhaps paradoxically — because of either dehydration or because weather conditions (like humidity) make it more difficult to sweat, exacerbating the effects of the heatstroke.

But there are other symptoms as well: Per the Mayo Clinic, things like hyperthermia (increased body temperature), confusion, headache, convulsions, nausea, rapid heartbeat and/or breathing are all signs that your body is in serious, heat related stress. If you’re ever experiencing symptoms like these, you need someone to get you inside or into the shade where it’s cool, ASAP, and to see a doctor as soon as possible.

As dangerous and scary as being too hot can be, there are some simple precautions you can take when it’s mega hot out to avoid heatstroke, too. For starters, know your limits: If it’s hot out, don’t push it, and stay in the shade as much as possible. Healthline.com also suggests that you drink plenty of water — more than you might otherwise in order to replenish what you lose to sweating — and that you wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing in order to allow your body to cool itself down as much as it can.

Some folks might relish the opportunity to take in as much of the waning summer sun as possible. But if you’re going to catch some rays and get hot, make sure you know when really hot becomes way too hot.