The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) urges residents to protect themselves against the extreme heat forecast for the coming week with a few simple health precautions. This is particularly important for older adults, infants and children, people with certain medical conditions, those who work in hot environments, and athletes.
Any time temperatures reach the high 80s and above, they can cause body temperature to rise. This can result in muscle cramps, dizziness, severe heat illness, and even death. Heat illness occurs when the body is unable to cool down. The body normally cools down by sweating, but during extremely hot weather, sweating may not be enough to cool the body. That's when the risk of overheating to the point of becoming ill occurs.
"During the extreme heat that we’re expecting this week, it’s very important to take some key steps,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the MDCH. “For ourselves, it’s important to stay well hydrated, limit exposure to heat, and be vigilant for signs of heat-related illness.
“In addition, we should look out for our neighbors during these especially hot days, to see if we can help them stay safe from the heat,” said Dr. Davis. “If you’re looking for relief, your local emergency management program can help with information and – depending on the location – with cooling centers.” Note: click here for a list of Ingham County cooling centers.
Tips to Avoid Heat Illness:
· Use air conditioning or spend time in air-conditioned locations, when possible. Public authorities may set up cooling centers in your area to provide air-conditioned locations. Call 211 or check with local authorities for more information, including city and county websites.
· Take a cool bath, shower, or swim.
· Minimize direct exposure to the sun.
· Limit time outdoors as much as possible, but take frequent breaks if you must be outside.
· Stay hydrated – drink water or nonalcoholic fluids; try to avoid fluids with caffeine, because they can dehydrate you.
· Wear loose fitting, light-colored clothes.
· Check on your neighbors, friends and family members, especially those who are older, those with very young children, or those who have health problems.
· Never leave children, the elderly, or pets unattended in a vehicle. Even with the windows rolled down, or just for a few minutes, it is never OK to leave anyone in a vehicle in extreme heat.
· Use a fan when the windows are open or the air conditioner is on when the weather begins to heat up. Once the temperature reaches the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat illness.
Understanding Heat Illness:
- Dehydration is the first stage of heat-related illness. Dehydration occurs when body fluids are lost, and not replaced, by sweating. Symptoms include dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue and irritability.
If you are experiencing dehydration, move to a shaded or air-conditioned area, replace fluids by drinking water, and consult a physician if symptoms persist or if there is an existing condition that could be complicated by increased fluid intake.
- The next, more serious stage of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluid loss occurs greatly from sweating. This fluid loss can cause reduced blood flow to vital organs, which results in shock.
Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, moist and pale skin, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion. To treat exhaustion, seek shade or a cool place. Drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes, remove or loosen any tight clothing, and apply a cool, wet towel or compress. Heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke, so if symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment.
- Heat stroke is the most severe stage of heat-related illness. A heat stroke, also called sunstroke, can be deadly. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness, high body temperature (sometimes as high as 105 degrees) or red, hot, and dry skin with a rapid, weak pulse.
Call 911 for immediate medical help and try to cool the person down. If possible, put them in a tub of cool water or shower them with a garden hose.