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Unsafe temperature: What is the heat index?

Hot and Cold: Extreme Temperature Safety

Hot and Cold: Extreme Temperature Safety

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Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M.D. — By The Healthline Editorial Team — Updated on September 17, 2018


If you’re planning to travel outdoors, be prepared to deal with all sorts of weather. This might mean extremely rainy days or extremely dry days, and from the hottest daytime hours to the coldest nights.

The human body has a normal core temperature between 97˚F and 99˚F, but on average, a normal body temperature is 98.6˚F (37˚C). To maintain this temperature without the help of warming or cooling devices, the surrounding environment needs to be at about 82˚F (28˚C). Clothes aren’t just for looks — they’re necessary to keep warm. You can usually bundle up in more layers during colder months, and you can use fans or air conditioners in warmer months to maintain a healthy core temperature.

In some cases, you may find yourself in an environment with extreme temperatures. It’s crucial to know what health concerns you may face as well as how to avoid any temperature-related health problems.

First, note that the temperature reading on a thermometer is not necessarily the temperature that you should be concerned about. The relative humidity in your environment can affect the temperature you actually feel, which is called the “apparent temperature.” Some example scenarios include:

  • If the air temperature reads 85˚F (29˚C), but there’s zero humidity, the temperature will actually feel like it’s 78˚F (26 ˚C).
  • If the air temperature reads 85˚F (29˚C), with 80 percent humidity, it will actually feel like 97˚F (36˚C).

High environmental temperatures can be dangerous to your body. In the range of 90˚ and 105˚F (32˚ and 40˚C), you can experience heat cramps and exhaustion. Between 105˚ and 130˚F (40˚ and 54˚C), heat exhaustion is more likely. You should limit your activities at this range. An environmental temperature over 130˚F (54˚C) often leads to heatstroke.

Other heat-related illnesses include:

  • heat exhaustion
  • heatstroke
  • muscle cramps
  • heat swelling
  • fainting


Symptoms of heat-related illness depend on the type and the severity of the illness.

Some common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • sweating heavily
  • exhaustion or fatigue
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • blacking out or feeling dizzy when standing up
  • weak but fast pulse
  • feelings of nausea
  • vomiting

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • reddish skin that feels hot to the touch
  • strong and fast pulse
  • losing consciousness
  • internal body temperature over 103˚F (39˚C)


If someone loses consciousness and shows one or more of the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, call 911 right away.

To treat heat exhaustion, try to keep yourself cool with cold, damp cloths around your body and slowly take small sips of water until the symptoms begin to fade. Try to get out of the heat. Find some place with air conditioning or a lower temperature (especially out of direct sunlight). Rest on a couch or bed.

To treat heatstroke, cover yourself with cold, damp cloths or take a cold bath to normalize your body temperature. Get out of the heat immediately to a place with a lower temperature. Don’t drink anything until you (or the person experiencing heatstroke) receive medical attention.


Stay well-hydrated to best avoid heat-related illness. Drink enough fluids so that your urine is light-colored or clear. Don’t rely solely on thirst as a guide to how much liquid you should be drinking. When you lose a lot of fluids or sweat profusely, be sure to replace electrolytes as well.

Wear clothing that is appropriate to your environment. Clothes that are too thick or too warm can quickly cause you to become overheated. If you feel yourself getting too hot, loosen your clothing or remove excess clothing until you feel cool enough. Wear sunscreen when possible to avoid sunburn, which makes it harder for your body to get rid of excess heat.

Try to avoid places that can get extremely hot, such as inside cars. Never leave another person, child, or pet, even for short periods of time.

Risk factors

Common risk factors that can cause you to be more susceptible to heat-related illness include:

  • being younger than 4 or older than 65
  • exposure to abrupt weather changes from cold to hot
  • being overweight or obese
  • taking medications such as diuretics and antihistamines
  • using illicit drugs such as cocaine
  • exposure to a high heat index (measurement of both heat and humidity)

As with high temperatures, don’t rely solely on the thermometer reading of environmental air for gauging cold temperatures. The speed of the wind and external body moisture can cause a chill that dramatically changes your body’s rate of cooling and how you feel. In extremely cold weather, especially with a high wind chill factor, you can quickly experience the onset of hypothermia. Falling into cold water can also result in immersion hypothermia.

Some cold-related illnesses include:

  • hypothermia
  • frostbite
  • trench foot (or “immersion foot”)
  • chilblains
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • cold-induced hives

In addition to these illnesses, winter weather can cause major inconveniences for travelers. Always be prepared to deal with heavy snow and extreme cold, whether you’re on the road or at home.


When your body first drops below 98.6˚F (37˚C), you may experience:

  • shivering
  • an increased heart rate
  • a slight decrease in coordination
  • an increased urge to urinate

When your body temperature is between 91.4˚ and 85.2˚F (33˚ and 30˚C), you’ll:

  • decrease or stop shivering
  • fall into a stupor
  • feel drowsy
  • be unable to walk
  • experience quick alternations between rapid heart rate and breathing too slowly
  • shallow breathing

Between 85.2˚ and 71.6˚F (30˚C and 22˚C), you’ll experience:

  • minimal breathing
  • poor to no reflexes
  • inability to move or respond to stimuli
  • low blood pressure
  • possibly coma

A body temperature below 71.6˚F (22˚C) can result in muscles becoming rigid, blood pressure becoming extremely low or even absent, heart and breathing rates decreasing, and it can ultimately lead to death.


If someone passes out, shows multiple symptoms listed above, and has a body temperature of 95˚F (35˚C) or lower, call 911 immediately. Perform CPR if the person isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse.

To treat hypothermia, get out of the cold as soon as possible and to a warmer environment. Remove any damp or wet clothing and start warming up the middle areas of your body, including your head, neck, and chest, with a heating pad or against the skin of someone with a normal body temperature. Drink something warm to gradually increase your body temperature, but don’t have anything alcoholic.

Even after you begin to feel warm again, stay dry and keep yourself wrapped up in a warm blanket. Seek medical help right away to minimize the harm to your body.

To treat frostbite, soak the affected area in warm water no hotter than 105˚F (40˚C) and wrap it in gauze. Keep any toes or fingers affected by frostbite separated from each other to avoid rubbing the areas against each other. Do not rub, use, or walk on frostbitten skin, as this can cause tissue damage. See your doctor if you still can’t feel anything on your frostbitten skin after 30 minutes.


It’s essential to protect anyone experiencing early symptoms of hypothermia. If possible, remove them from the cold immediately. Don’t try to warm a person suffering from serious hypothermia with vigorous exercise or rubbing, as this can lead to further problems.

To prevent cold-related illness, take one or more of these measures when the temperature starts to drop:

  • eat substantial meals regularly and drink plenty of water
  • avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • remain inside near a source of heat
  • wear a hat, beanie, or something similar on your head to retain heat and gloves or mittens on your hands
  • wear multiple layers of clothing
  • use lotion and lip balm to prevent dryness of your skin and lips
  • bring extra clothes to change into in case you get damp or wet
  • wear sunglasses when it’s snowing or extremely bright outside to avoid snow blindness

Risk factors

Common risk factors for hypothermia and frostbite include:

  • being younger than 4 or older than 65
  • consuming alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco
  • being dehydrated
  • exposing skin to extremely cold temperatures, especially when exercising and sweating
  • becoming damp or wet in cold temperatures

Last medically reviewed on January 10, 2017

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Beat the heat weather ready nation campaign. (2014, July 28). Retrieved from 
  • Cold related illnesses. (2016)
  • Cold weather illness: Recognition, management, and prevention of cold exposure. (2016)
  • Hypothermia. (2012, December 3)
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, May 16). Heat and exercise: Keeping cool in hot weather
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, November 25). Heat exhaustion. Retrieved from
  • Tips to prevent cold related illness. (2014, January 25). Retrieved from
  • Top ten Red Cross cold weather safety tips. (2015, February 18)
  • Warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. (2011, June 20)
  • Wexler, R. K. (2002, June 1). Evaluation and treatment of heat-related illnesses. American Family Physician, 65(11), 2307-2315
  • Winter weather. (2015, April 23)

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Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M.D. — By The Healthline Editorial Team — Updated on September 17, 2018

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Stay Safe in the Extreme Cold

Duluth, MN

Weather Forecast Office

Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. What constitutes extreme cold varies in different parts of the country. In the southern U. S., near freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. Here in the north, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero. 


Wind Chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss on the human body resulting from the combined effect of low temperature and wind. As winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill; however, cars, plants and other objects are not.

Use the wind chill chart below to check wind chill based on the wind and temperature.  The shaded areas show how long it will take for exposed skin become frostbitten. The bottom chart will give you frostbite times based on the wind speed and temperature.  You can click on either chart for a larger view.





Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20° Fahrenheit (F) will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person’s temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!

If medical care is not available, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core. Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure. If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer. Click this link for more information: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html



Dress For The Cold:
Wear layers of loose-fitting and lightweight clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you.

  • If doing strenuous outdoor activities, avoid wearing cotton.   Once wet, cotton takes a long time to dry

    and will sap your heat. Use synthetic fabrics that wick moisture from your skin and dry quickly.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
  • Wear a hat, because 40%of your body heat can be lost from your head.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
  • Try to stay dry and out of the wind.

When Traveling:

Always prepare for the worst! 

  • Your vehicle’s winter survival kit should include warm clothes, boots, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries, candy bars or ceral bars.  Here is a good list from ReadyWisconsin.
  • Always carry a charged cell phone and tell others of your travel plans.


Don’t forget about your pets!

How to keep pets safe                       


For additional information go to https://www. ready.gov/winter-weather

What kind of weather is deadly for people?

The summer of 2022, like many previous ones, is very hot. At the end of June, residents of Moscow and other large cities were languishing in the heat – several cool days with rain are expected in July, but abnormally hot weather promises to return again. On such days, many people douse themselves in cool water and say that they are “dying from the heat.” The question arises – but really, at what air temperature does a person risk dying? Scientists have long been trying to figure out the limits of the endurance of the human body and are constantly making new discoveries. Let’s say right away that a person can feel bad after a few tens of minutes of being in the open sun. But there is an even more dangerous condition in which the human body receives the greatest damage.

Sometimes hot summers are more dangerous than freezing winters


  • 1 Why is exposure to the sun dangerous?
  • 2 The healthiest weather
  • 3 Which countries have the hottest weather?
  • 4 Which is better, heat or cold?

Why is exposure to the sun dangerous?

Obviously, the greatest harm to a person’s health is caused when he is outdoors. In summer, the air temperature even in the shade can reach 30 degrees Celsius, and in open areas this figure can be 10-20 points higher. Under the sun, the head becomes especially vulnerable – high temperatures heat the cerebral cortex, which leads to vasodilation. Because of this, a large volume of blood flows to the head, which can cause rupture of small vessels. Because of this, the entire central nervous system suffers.

In hot weather, you should never stay outdoors.

During hot weather, a person risks suffering from heat or sunstroke. These are two different phenomena - we talked about the differences in this material.

The most dangerous weather for health

But a person can suffer from extreme heat, even if he is in the shade. Bad things can happen if wet bulb conditions are established. The weather is such if the air temperature averages 31.1 degrees Celsius and the relative humidity is 95%. Under such conditions, the human body loses the ability to regulate body temperature through sweating, which is why heat stroke occurs with all the consequences. Experts believe that even perfectly healthy people with great endurance die in such conditions.

High humidity heat is always harder to bear

According to Professor Radley Horton, “wet bulb” conditions are deadly even if the person is wearing light clothing and carrying an unlimited amount of water. No matter how much he sweats, the body temperature will still rise – the only way to escape is to find a cool place with less humidity.

Why do +4 degrees feel cold in autumn and warm in spring? The answer is here.

Which countries are the hottest?

Hot and humid conditions are hardest to escape in South Asia, the coastal regions of the Middle East and southwestern North America. However, dangerous weather can form in other regions such as the US, Canada and even Russia. In the course of scientific work, the results of which were published in the scientific journal Science Advances, the above-mentioned Professor Radley Horton and his colleagues studied data from weather stations around the world collected from 1979 to 2017. They were able to detect about 7,000 occurrences of wet bulb conditions. It is highly likely that hundreds or even thousands of people died due to the heat in such weather.

Wet bulb conditions can occur anywhere except, perhaps, the cold parts of the Earth

As a result, it turns out that the summer heat is far from the most heavenly conditions. Residents of cold countries like Russia look forward to warm days and often even love the 30-degree heat. However, they do not realize that hot and humid conditions can cause the same damage to human health as winter frosts.

Which is better, heat or cold?

Moreover, some people are resistant to cold, while everyone suffers from heat. In 2021, scientists conducted an experiment involving 42 men – they were asked to sit in the cold until their body temperature drops to 35.5 degrees. Before being sent to a cold cell, they were tested. It turned out that among people there are mutants that have increased resistance to cold. You can read more about this discovery here.

Some people are resistant to cold

Are you subscribed to our Zen channel? See what's new we have.

At the end of the article I would like to ask what would you choose: an abnormally hot summer or a record frosty winter? Write about your choice and the reasons for such a decision in the comments, it will be interesting to read.

Human healthClimate on Earth

Temperature as the most important parameter for food safety

How microorganisms can get into food and what accelerates their reproduction

Bacteria enter food mainly:

  • through production staff

  • from raw foods

  • from animals or pests;

  • by air;

  • through poorly washed equipment, inventory, from waste.

In order to live and multiply, microorganisms need:

The food worker cannot control acidity, oxygen supply, or moisture content, but he can control time and temperature.

The influence of temperature on the growth of microflora

The cold chain is a set of measures aimed at maintaining a constant temperature required for a particular product, along the entire path of its movement from production to consumer.

For identical groups of goods, the temperature storage regimes are similar. For example, for dairy products, confectionery and culinary products, this is most often from +2 to +6 С; for chilled offal and poultry – from -2 to +2 С or +4 С. However, for different manufacturers, depending on the ingredients, manufacturing technology and packaging, these parameters may vary slightly.

The temperature of food storage is extremely important, because under favorable conditions, the number of microorganisms will double every 20 minutes. That is, from 1 bacterium in 6 hours it will turn out … 262 144!

Temperature influence:

  • at -18 °C – there is no growth in numbers, microorganisms “sleep”;

  • from +1 to +5 ° C – most bacteria do not multiply or do it very slowly;

  • from +5 to +63 °C – danger zone: rapid population growth; these are the most favorable temperatures for the reproduction of bacteria;

  • from +63 to +75 ° C – most microorganisms do not multiply;

  • from +75 to +100 °C and above – most microorganisms die.

Thus, keeping food products and ingredients at the right temperature is one of the most important things a food worker can do. After all, if you leave food for a long time at unacceptable temperatures for them, this will create conditions for the growth of microorganisms, sometimes to a dangerous level. In this regard, perishable foods, such as meat, fish, confectionery and dairy products, are at increased risk, but dry foods, such as rice and legumes, can also contain bacteria that will grow if the temperature is not controlled not only during storage, but also during cooking, cooling and heating.

How and with what to measure temperatures

Non-contact thermometers are designed for remote temperature measurement on the surface of an object. They are convenient, for example, to check the temperature in the car body when receiving products.

The probe thermometer measures the temperature of gaseous, liquid, semi-solid and granular substances. They can most accurately measure the temperature of the product inside.

The use of mercury thermometers in food enterprises is prohibited due to high risks.

During cooking, food must reach a certain temperature. How to measure the temperature to ensure the accuracy of the instrument readings? For meat and poultry, insert the probe thermometer into the thickest part for at least 15 seconds. If there is a bone inside, make sure the thermometer is not touching it – the bone may be hotter than the meat surrounding it, and therefore measuring its temperature may not indicate that the edible part has reached the right temperature.

For meats such as hot dogs or hamburgers, insert the probe through the vertical end. For casseroles and other similar dishes, insert the appliance into the center of the dish. It is important to ensure that the appliance does not contaminate food. To do this, it must be thoroughly washed and disinfected.

Over time, thermometers can lose their ability to measure temperature accurately, so they need to be calibrated and verified periodically. Designate a person responsible for this and ensure that valid supporting documents are in place.

Temperature control during receiving, storage and cooling

It is very important to control the temperature of products, especially perishable products, from the moment they are received. This will help determine if the cold chain has been broken during transport.

Frozen food with signs of defrosting and refreezing – ice crystals, frozen liquid, water stains, etc. – should not be accepted

The fact is that when frozen, microorganisms “fall asleep”, their vital activity slows down. When the product is defrosted, they begin to multiply actively. If the goods are refrozen, there will already be more microorganisms in it, and when they are thawed again, their number is likely to become critical.

Perishable food should be stored in the refrigerator at the temperature indicated on the label, usually +6 ºC or colder. Frozen – usually not higher than -18 ° C.

Check and record the temperature in refrigerators and freezers at least once a day. If the equipment cannot keep food at the required temperature, it must be repaired or replaced.

Arrange products in refrigerators and freezers correctly:

  • when laying out, it is impossible to block the ventilation grilles, the goods should not interfere with the movement of air flows;

  • loading of products into the chamber or showcase should be carried out only after it has reached the required temperature;

  • it is necessary to observe the maximum allowable load of the equipment; it is impossible to lay out products above the permissible level;

  • when loading products into cold stores, leave enough space for rotation and movement between products. Do not store food in bulk, as this interferes with air circulation and proper cooling.

Temperature control for cooking and reheating

Raw foods, such as meat or vegetables, may initially contain high levels of microorganisms. Therefore, it is important that food is thoroughly cooked to core temperature.
at least 75 °C

Optimal storage conditions for certain types of prepared meals and culinary products

  • The readiness of meat and poultry is determined by the release of colorless juice at the puncture site and gray color on the cut of the product, as well as
    temperature in the thick
    . For example, for minced poultry meat, the recommended temperature is not less than 85 ° С , for cutlet mass – is not lower than 90 ° С .

  • The readiness of products from minced fish and fish is determined by the formation of a fried crust and easy separation of meat from the bone. Recommended temperature not less than 70 °C .

It is recommended that you keep a record of the checks you have made, especially if the core temperature measurement is a critical control point within the HACCP system.

Temperature control during product storage

Finished products are stored in accordance with the technological map. There are optimal storage conditions for some types of products.

  • For example, boiled meat, poultry and offal for the first and second courses are stored in the broth in which they were cooked at a temperature of +75 ° C until the release to the buyer for no more than one hour.

  • Salads, vinaigrettes and sliced ​​​​components are stored unseasoned at a temperature of +2 to +6 ° C for no more than six hours.

  • Raw minced meat – at a temperature of +2 to +6 ° C for no more than 12 hours.

  • Minced meat for filling pies and pancakes is used within two hours after frying.

  • Perishable food products after opening the package should be sold within 12 hours, subject to storage conditions.

  • Egg powder after swelling for 30-40 minutes is subjected to cooking.

  • Creams – custard, whipped cream, cottage cheese – are used immediately after preparation.

  • Other types of creams are stored at the factory until they are used at a temperature of +2 to +6 °C for no more than 1.5 hours.

  • Freshly prepared confectionery products with cream are stored at a temperature not exceeding +16 °С … +18 °С for no more than two hours. Further in the refrigerator at a temperature from +2 °C to +6 °C during the expiration date.

Hot product cooling

To ensure that food does not remain in the danger area for too long, it must be cooled down as quickly as possible. It is good practice to aim to cool food below 8°C within 90 minutes.

Techniques such as reducing the portion size, spreading food on an open tray or using ice, shock cooling in a special chamber will help with this.

Portioning of chilled and ready-to-eat meals, including cold appetizers and salads, culinary products, is recommended to be carried out in a room with an air temperature not higher than +15 °C or on tables with a cooled work surface.
In the absence of such a room or tables with a refrigerated surface, the portioning process should be carried out for no longer than 30 minutes.

Accounting for measurement results

The results of temperature measurement at any stage must be recorded. Checklists, magazines, and the like can be accepted as forms. Records must contain the date and time of temperature recording, identification
, FULL NAME. responsible for the entered information and features of corrective actions, if any.

Food defrosting

There are several ways to defrost products.

So, defrosting food in the refrigerator takes at least 24 hours, so this method requires planning ahead. Place the food on the tray in case liquid leaks out of the packaging. Food to be defrosted should be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

Defrosting in cold water is faster than in a refrigerator and usually takes several hours depending on the weight of the food. Place the frozen food in a waterproof plastic bag and completely submerge it in cold running water at 21°C or lower. After defrosting, food should be cooked immediately.

To defrost food in the microwave, remove the packaging from the food and place it in a microwave-safe container. Then follow the instructions for defrosting food.

Food can also be thawed while it is being prepared, such as when you make soup from frozen vegetables.

Features of defrosting some products:

  • It is not safe to defrost meat in water or on a hot stove. It is best to use a defroster 0…+6 °C, microwave or raw meat table.

  • Can be thawed in water

  • It is better to defrost fish in the air or
    in cold water
    with a temperature not higher than +12 °C. To reduce the loss of minerals, it is recommended to add salt to the water at the rate of 7-10 g per 1 liter.

  • Fish fillet, sturgeon fish are best thawed in the air.