PRINGFIELD – As part of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Keep Cool Illinois campaign, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, is urging Illinoisans this week to take preventive actions during this extremely hot weather. The Governor has also made 130 state facilities available as cooling centers. The mission of the Keep Cool Illinois campaign is to inform Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children and persons with disabilities, on how to prevent heat-related health problems and participate in summer activities safely.
“Periods of high temperatures and humidity, can lead to serious health problems,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Prevention is the best defense against heat-related illness. Staying cool, increasing your fluid intake, decreasing your activities and wearing appropriate clothing can help your body cope with high temperatures.”
Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. However, if temperatures and humidity are extremely high, like they are predicted to be this week, sweating is not effective in maintaining the body’s normal temperature. If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, a person may suffer a heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses can become serious or even deadly if unattended.
Dr. Whitaker offered the following prevention tips to beat the heat and related illness:
• Drink more fluids regardless of your activity level. Do not wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Make an extra effort to drink a minimum of six to eight 8 ounce glasses of cool fluids daily. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Parents should be sure young children get sufficient fluids. If you are on a special fluid-restricted diet or if you take diuretics, ask your physician about fluid intake during hot weather.
• Avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar – they cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.
• Take cool showers, baths or sponge baths, which can reduce body temperatures. In addition, wet clothing has a cooling effect.
• Protect your body. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. When spending time outdoors, avoid direct sunlight, wear a hat and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 15 to protect yourself against sunburn.
• Never leave anyone, including pets, alone in a closed, parked vehicle. The air temperature inside a car rises rapidly during hot weather and can lead to brain damage or death.
• Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public place that does have air conditioning.
• Seek out the nearest facility that is air conditioned, such as a cooling shelter, a senior citizen center, a church, a mall, the local YMCA or a center designated by your community. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Fans alone will not effectively cool an overheated person when air temperatures are above 90 degrees F.
As part of his Keep Cool Illinois campaign, Gov. Blagojevich has made 130 state facilities available as cooling centers. The cooling centers will provide Illinoisans a place to stay cool and comfortable during this week’s hot weather. The cooling centers are located at Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state and will be open to the public during regular business hours so anyone seeking refuge from the heat has a cool place to go. More information on the state’s cooling centers is available by calling the IDHS toll-free hotline (800-843-6154) or you can search by zip code for the cooling center nearest you at www.keepcool.illinois.gov.
“Already this summer numerous people have taken advantage of the cooling centers in IDHS office buildings,” said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. “Many low-income Illinoisans have no air conditioning in their homes or no other cool place to go to escape the heat. The cooling centers offer a clean, safe place to take refuge during the hottest part of the day.”
If you must go outside:
• Slow down and avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the early morning or late evening hours when it is cooler.
• Take regular breaks when engaged in physical activity on warm days. Try to rest often in shady or cool areas. If you recognize that you, or someone else, are showing signs of a heat-related illness, stop activity and find a cool place.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, but some people are at greater risk. Check regularly on:
• Infants and young children
• People aged 65 or older
• People who have mental illness
• Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion of heat stroke. Infants and young children need much more frequent watching.
For more information on summer activity safety and summer health risks, visit the website at http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/books/summtoc.htm to find the “Summer? No Sweat” Survival.
The Keep Cool Illinois Web site: www.keepcool.illinois.gov offers various no-cost and low-cost energy saving tips, links to cooling centers and energy assistance programs, firework safety tips, West Nile virus prevention guides and other available state resources. The Keep Cool Illinois hotline (877-411-9276), as well a Spanish version of the Web site, provide additional resources for Illinois residents to learn how to cut utility bills, receive energy assistance and stay cool and healthy this summer.