(Des Moines, IA) –Toward the end of the week and into the weekend, Central Iowa is expected to see high temperatures and humidity. We have experienced a milder summer, so our bodies may not have adjusted to extremely hot weather which increases the risk for heat-related illness. Anyone is at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during prolonged extreme heat, but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, outdoor workers and athletes practicing outdoors are at increased risk.
“With the start of school, many students are participating in athletics and practicing outdoors,” said Rick Kozin, director of Polk County Health Department. “As their bodies are adapting to new levels of exertion, extreme heat can put additional stress on their bodies.”
To prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths when practicing sports or working outdoors, we encourage individuals to follow these precautions:
• Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
• Slowly increase practice intensity and duration.
• If possible move outdoor activity indoors or to morning hours.
• Drink water before, during and after practice.
• Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.
“With several days in a row of hot weather, like what we are experiencing this week, temperatures in homes that do not have air conditioning can get dangerously high,” said Kozin.
The best way to avoid heat related illness is to get at least two hours every day in air conditioning. Ways to increase safety in homes without air conditioning include:
• Do not use appliances such as washer/dryer, dishwasher or stove during the daytime.
• Keep windows and blinds closed during the day to keep the heat out.
• Open windows when temperatures are lowest, from 4-7 a.m.
• Use a fan to circulate air only. Do not sit directly in front of a fan. While you may feel cooler, it can actually dehydrate your body quicker, increasing your risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
• Place a cool washcloth on your head and the back of your neck. Take periodic cool baths or showers.
Signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint, body aches, stomach pain, nausea and elevated body temperature. Heat stroke on the other hand is an emergency situation and can be life threatening. Signs and symptoms to watch for include shock, unconsciousness and seizures. Call 911 or seek medical attention when experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or stroke.
Remember to check at least twice each day on those on friends, family and neighbors who don’t have air conditioning.
For more information regarding extreme heat and precautions, visit our web site at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health.