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It’s very hot in Denver right now. Here’s how to stay cool
It’s very hot in Denver right now. Here’s how to stay cool

The first day of summer was Thursday and, as if on cue, the National Weather Service issued a heat warning for much of the Front Range.

The highest temperatures on Monday and Tuesday will be between 35 and 40 degrees. And after dark there will be little improvement – the lowest temperatures at night will be between 18 and 20 degrees.

That’s significantly higher than the typical long-term average temperatures for June, which are 90.6°F (32.2°C) in downtown Denver and 81.2°F (27.8°C) across the state, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The heat warning also applies to the cities of Arvada, Boulder, Golden, Lakewood and Longmont.

Denver is activating recreation centers as cooling centers on Monday and Tuesday.

Where can people cool off in Denver?

Denver Parks and Recreation has areas at each of its recreation centers where people can cool off during extreme heat. The designated areas are staffed and provide drinking water, restrooms and seating. Find your nearest recreation center here.

The Denver Public Library is also open to the public to escape the heat. For more information on library locations and hours, click here.

“The heat is dangerous and we want people to be safe,” said Emily Williams, a spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment. “In this heat, it’s important that people take care of their health.”

A “cooling station,” also known as the corner of the lobby, at the Carla Madison Recreation Center on Colfax Avenue. June 16, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Last summer in Denver was much cooler than expected this year.

“I believe we have only activated the cooling centers twice, but we are expecting a very warm summer this year,” Williams said. “I imagine this will not be our only activation this summer.”

People should know that a municipal facility would never turn away someone who wants to cool down, even if a cooling center is not operating.

“The library is always a great place, or the recreation center,” she said.

Why is heat dangerous for us?

Best advice from health experts: Be prepared and alert and don’t underestimate the risks of heat.

“Extreme heat kills,” said Dr. Jay Lemery, emergency physician and co-director of the Climate and Health Program at CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “It’s a force multiplier for pre-existing conditions like diabetes or COPD, asthma or coronary heart disease.”

When people with these conditions exert themselves in extreme heat, they can experience a crisis. When they arrive at the emergency room, they may have shortness of breath or chest pain, but not the symptoms of classic heat stroke.

Heat can be “insidious” because it worsens chronic diseases in ways that neither patient nor doctor would expect, Lemery said.

According to the website HEAT.gov, heat-related illnesses and deaths are largely preventable.

Heat illness occurs when your body is unable to dissipate heat effectively, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Individual health characteristics – such as age, obesity, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, sunburn, and use of prescription drugs and alcohol – can all play a role in your body’s ability to cool down in hot weather.

People most at risk of heat-related illness include people aged 65 and over, children under two, and people with chronic illnesses or mental illnesses.

Sweating is our natural response to heat, Lemery said, but in people at risk, it can also amplify the negative effects of heat.

“It dehydrates you, it raises your heart rate. These are all ways the body cools itself down,” he said. “For those who are physiologically vulnerable … your heart rate goes up 10 or 20 beats.”

The renovated swimming pool in Congress Park. August 2, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Maybe you have heart disease and take diuretics, medications that reduce fluid retention in the body, so you may not be as well hydrated as others.

“That can very quickly lead to a crisis where your organs, your heart or your lungs have to work much harder,” Lemery said. “And if you have those pre-existing conditions, that can be enough to send you into a crisis where you get heart failure or an exacerbation of asthma or develop acute coronary syndrome, which precedes a heart attack.”

It is not only people with pre-existing medical conditions who need to be careful of extreme heat, said Lemery.

“We see young people in the emergency room who are otherwise world-class triathletes, and often with the heat comes deteriorating air quality,” he said.

On days of extreme heat, the effects of pollution are even worse.

“Cyclists come in gasping for air and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know I had asthma.’ And the response is, ‘You don’t have asthma, you have reactive airway disease due to extreme heat,'” Lemery said.

How to defy the heat

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment issued the following tips in a press release to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Stay indoors with air conditioning as much as possible. Air conditioning is the best way to protect yourself from heat-related illness. If your home is not air-conditioned, visit one of Denver’s cooling stations.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink
  • Fans do not prevent heat-related illness in extreme heat. Instead, take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Do not use the stove or oven for cooking – this will make you and the house warmer
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages
  • Limit your outdoor activities, especially during midday when the sun is hottest

If you must be outside during the heat of the day, follow these tips:

  • Apply sunscreen and reapply regularly
  • Adjust your activity and rest frequently
  • Watch for muscle cramps, which can be an early sign of heat-related illness. To prevent cramps and heat-related illness, drink more water than usual.
  • Wear loose, light, bright clothing and a hat

Symptoms of heat-related illness may include:

  • Red or itchy skin
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • A weak but rapid pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

During extreme heat, check on your friends and neighbors to make sure they are okay, and remember never to leave children unattended in a hot car.

And don’t forget the furry friends

Denver Animal Protection (DAP) reminds residents to never leave their pets unattended in their car, DDPHE said in its press release.

If you suspect an animal has suffered heat stroke:

  • Bring the animal into the shade or to a cooler place
  • Cool the animal with water or ice packs only on the stomach
  • Offer cool drinking water, but do not force it
  • Do not immerse the pet in water. This can cause further harm if its temperature regulation is impaired.
  • Do not cover the animal, do not lock it in a box or do not lock it
  • Even if your pet reacts to cooling treatments, it is important that your pet sees an emergency veterinarian to determine if irreversible damage has occurred.

If you see a dog in a hot car, call 311 immediately or Denver Animal Protection at 720-913-2080. You should also familiarize yourself with the city’s Good Samaritan Law, which grants immunity to people who break a car window to save an animal.

To ensure immunity:

  • You must assume that the animal is in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury
  • The vehicle must be locked
  • You must make “reasonable efforts” to find the vehicle owner
  • You must contact the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department or DAP before entering the vehicle
  • You must not use more force than necessary to free the animal
  • If you break a window, you must stay with the animal and on site until the police or DAP officers arrive