Spending time outside can be good for your health, but if you’re pregnant during the summer, the heat can increase the risks for you and your baby. You might recall rapper Nelly’s early 2000s hit, “Hot in Herre!” Sure, you can sing and dance to the music, but no one really expects it to be to be ‘that hot’ on a regular basis when not in party mode – even during the summer. Well now, it’s time for a wake-up call.

Yes, It’s Hot and Getting Hotter

In 2023, NASA  recorded the Earth’s hottest year on record. The extreme heat rolled through in heat waves, wildfires, intense rains, and coastal flooding. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the nation’s first health-based heat forecast, HeatRisk.

Meet the HeatRisk Index

HeatRisk offers an easy color-number system to check daily temperatures by zip code. The color-number combination indicates the severity of heat and the air quality. If you’re sensitive to heat, the index can help you decide if it’s safe to go outdoors, especially during the hottest part of the day.

Like a weather forecast, the HeatRisk Index for the day allows you to plan and dress accordingly. HeatRisk and the Air Quality Index (AQI) are displayed as:

  • Green – good air quality (0-50); air pollution levels cause little to no risk for most people
  • Yellow – moderate air quality (51-100); some risk for people sensitive to air pollution
  • Orange – unhealthy air quality (101-150) for sensitive groups such as children, some adults with heart or lung conditions
  • Red – unhealthy air quality (151-200) for the general public; may cause serious health issues for sensitive groups
  • Purple – very unhealthy air quality (201-300) that may increase the health risk for everyone
  • Maroon – hazardous air quality (301+) health warnings of emergency conditions

5 Steps for Pregnant Women

The CDC encourages you to stay cool, hydrated, and informed. Here are 5 ways you can stay safe on hot days while pregnant:

  1. Stay Cool
  • List places you can go to stay cool
  • Stay in the shade if you’re outdoors
  • Go outside in the early mornings or cooler evenings
  • Use air conditioning
  • Keep a hand-held fan with you
  • Take breaks often
  • Plan with your pregnancy care provider for yellow and orange heat risk days
  • Limit time outside on red and purple heat risk days
  1. Stay Hydrated
  • Carry and refill a water bottle throughout the day
  • Limit drinks high in sugar, sodium, and caffeine
  • Check that your urine color is light yellow or clear
  1. Check for heat-related symptoms
  • Seek care if you feel unusually sweaty, headache, cramping, weakness, or other symptoms of overheating
  • Travel with a loved one or close friend in case you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea
  1. Check air quality
  • Know the AQI number to guide your outdoor activity
    • If less than 100, this is a good day to be active outside for most people
    • If more than 100, consider limiting outdoor activity and reduce any sources of indoor air pollution (like candles and cigarette smoke)
  • Check the HeatRisk Dashboard daily
  • Use a portable air purifier
  1. Create a medication plan
    • Discuss any medications with your pregnancy care provider that may make you dehydrated or overheated on hot days
    • Plan for power outages if you take refrigerated medicine or use an electronic medical device
    • Store medicines properly, some need to be kept out of hot places like the kitchen

So, crank up the volume to a few tunes that can keep you focused on keeping cool like the great Beach Boys “Surfin’ USA,” Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me,” or the upbeat Disney classic The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea!” Whatever you do – have a fun and safe summer as you keep yourself and your ‘bun safe in the oven’!

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Kassandra Greci, DNP, MSHRM, APRN, WHNP-BC, is the Sr. Manager of Women’s Health Programs at AWHONN.

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