How to avoid heat-related illnesses during the hottest week of year

Excessive heat can lead to confusion, seizures, passing out and more.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

With the area under an excessive heat warning until at least Friday night, it is crucial to take steps to reduce heat and sun exposure, health officials said.

Excessive heat can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and sun exposure can lead to sunburn — all of which can be dangerous, Mercy Health – Springfield emergency department Dr. Jenny Guest said.

It is important to time outdoor activities to the coolest part of the day if possible and to drink large amounts of water and electrolyte-rich drinks like Gatorade, Guest said.

“If you do have to be outside, make sure that you’re with somebody else, so not being outside in an isolated area where if you do get overheated there’s no one to call for assistance for you,” Guest said. “Kind of use the buddy system if you do have to be outside because it can be dangerous.”

Today’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington. Friday also is expected to see a high of 95, with Saturday rising to 96 and Sunday dropping to around 90, according to the NWS.

The first day predicted to be below 90 in a week will be Monday, with an expected high near 85. Tuesday will rise to around 91.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a “continuum” of the body’s response to overheating, Guest said.

The body first experiences heat stroke, with symptoms including headache, lightheadedness, rapid heart rate and nausea, Guest said. This means a heat stroke is possible and the person experiencing these symptoms needs to find shade or air conditioning and to hydrate. If the symptoms persist, that’s when emergency medical attention is necessary.

“That’s sort of a warning sign that heat stroke is coming if we don’t take action,” Guest said.

After heat exhaustion comes heat stroke, which is a medical emergency and it is important to immediately call 911, Guest said. A person may experience seizures, confusion, vomiting and passing out.

Those with heat stroke may have cool and dry skin without sweating, Guest said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

At the emergency room, medical personnel will work to cool a person down with ice packs and fans, as well as IV fluids, Guest said. Other symptoms like seizures will require additional treatment.

“If it has progressed to seizure and collapse, then there are different ways that we can support that; control seizures, etc.,” Guest said. “But really the first order of business is to get the temperature down.”

After calling 911 for a person with heat stroke, removing bulky clothing and cooling a person off however possible will help medical personnel, Guest said. But it is important to not give them any liquids, especially if they have had a seizure.

To prevent heat-related illness, it is important to limit outdoor exposure if possible, wear light-colored loose clothing, drink plenty of fluids, wear a wide-brimmed hat and, to prevent sunburn, apply sunscreen liberally and frequently, even when it is overcast, Guest said.

Guest said it is important to check on older community members and people with preexisting conditions, encouraging them to use air conditioning if they have it or take advantage of the cooling centers throughout Springfield and Clark County if necessary.

“Recognizing that especially our elderly patients, individuals with disabilities, or other underlying medical conditions, they’re going to be more susceptible, so for them to take advantage of those cooling centers if they don’t have access to AC is really important,” Guest said.

There are cooling centers open throughout the community:

The Salvation Army at 15 S. Plum St.

It will be open through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily.

The shelter will offer cold drinks and shelter.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering at the cooling center is asked to contact Aaron Roy at The Nehemiah Foundation at 937-325-6226.

The New Carlisle Library at 111 E. Lake Ave.

It will be open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. through Thursday; from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

The center offers air conditioning and drinking fountains.

New Carlisle Church of the Brethren at 219 N. Main St.

It will be open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Clark County Public Library Main Branch at 201 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield.

Hours are 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Library Park Branch at 1119 Bechtle Ave., Springfield.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Library Southgate Branch at 1863 S. Limestone St., Springfield.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Library South Charleston at 5 W. Jamestown St., South Charleston.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Library Enon at 209 East Main St., Enon.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

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