June 28, 2021
Local hospitals and public health officials urge residents to prepare for an expected heatwave beginning this Wednesday and lasting through Friday. Some forecasts show temperatures could reach upwards of 100 degrees in the county.
According to the CDC, each year approximately 600 people are killed in the United States by extreme heat. Lewis and Clark Public Health and St. Peter’s Health offer up some tips that could save a life.
“One of the most common things that we see in the emergency department during extreme heat events is dehydration,” said Dr. Andy Coil, an emergency physician in the St. Peter’s Health Emergency Department. “Spending time in heat without proper hydration or cooling can be dangerous, even if you're inside. It is important to find ways to cool down, stay hydrated and avoid things that contribute to dehydration, like drinking alcohol."
Kathy Moore, environmental services division administrator at Lewis and Clark Public Health, reminds residents to check up on neighbors and friends during an excessive heat event. “Make a point to check up on neighbors, friends and family members most at risk at least twice a day,” she said. “Know the signs of heatstroke, such as dizziness, confusion or passing out. If you see any of these – call 911 immediately.”
Individuals should do everything they can to ensure they stay cool during the heatwave.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Stay indoors as much as possible. If you have air-conditioning – use it. Those without air-conditioning should go to a place that does have it, such as shopping malls/stores or public buildings such as a library. Even a few hours in air-conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully by limiting those activities to early morning or late evening hours when temperatures tend to be cooler.
- Cut down on exercise during the heat. If activity leaves your heart pounding and shortness of breath, STOP all activity, get into a cool area or the shade and rest. Watch for early symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as lightheadedness, confusion, weakness or feeling faint.
- Wear sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Look for sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher and make sure to follow package directions regarding reapplication.
- NEVER leave children or pets alone in cars, even if the windows are cracked open. Temperatures can soar very quickly in hot cars. In some instances, surfaces in a car can reach well over 150 degrees.
Stay Hydrated (Note: Consult your primary care provider if you have been directed to watch your fluid intake or are on water pills)
- Drink plenty of fluids regardless of how thirsty you are. Being thirsty is the first sign of dehydration. Do not wait until you are thirsty.
- Avoid sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages – these will cause you to lose more body fluid.
- Be sure to replace salt and minerals removed by heavy sweating. A sports drink can help replace these fluids.
- Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic condition, talk to your primary care provider before drinking sports beverages or taking salt tablets.
- Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips.
- Consider using a ‘buddy system’ while working in excessive heat. Monitor the conditions of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illnesses can cause someone to lose consciousness.
- If you are 65 years or older, have a friend or relative call or check up on you twice a day during a heatwave. If you know someone at risk, check up on them twice a day.
- Those considered at high risk for excessive heat:
- Infants and young children
- Adults over the age of 65
- People who are overweight
- People who overexert during work or exercise
- People who have heart disease or high blood pressure, or that take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html.