Dangerous Heat Builds

By: Cheryl Lemke
By: Cheryl Lemke

Much of the country including the Heartland is in the throes of a heat wave with temperatures soaring into the 90s.

Not only are temperatures sizzling hot, but with high humidity the "feels like" temperatures are brutally high in the triple digits and these hot, sultry conditions are creating some potentially dangerous health concerns.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a couple of the more serious health issues during hot spells. Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs after being exposed to high temperatures and after becoming dehydrated. The most common symptoms include dizziness, confusion, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, rapid heart beat and profuse sweating.

If heat exhaustion progresses it can quickly escalate into a heat stroke, resulting in the body's core temperature soaring to 105 degrees. A heat stroke is the most serious heat-related condition and it is a medical emergency that can cause brain damage and death in the most extremes cases if left untreated.

Symptoms of heat stroke may include throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, red hot skin, confusion and disorientation, rapid heartbeat, muscle cramps, seizures and unconsciousness. But unlike heat exhaustion, with a heat stroke there is a distinct lack of sweating as your body loses its ability to cool itself.

Infants and children up to 4 years old, adults over 65, those who are overweight and those suffering from heart conditions are particularly vulnerable to heat problems. So with relative humidity values over 60 percent this week and with "feels like" temperatures above 90, it becomes imperative that we take precautions to stave off heat-related problems.

So exactly what measures should we take to keep ourselves cool when outdoors? Some basic guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control include:

1) Stay out of the sun, especially during the hottest time of the day which is usually between 2-6 p.m.

2) Drink plenty of fluids, particularly non-alcoholic and caffeine-free drinks

3) Wear light weight, loose-fitting clothes

4) Take more frequent breaks during extreme bouts of heat and humidity

As the heat wave continues to bake the Heartland, hopefully taking some precautionary measures will ward off a trip to the emergency room.

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