SPRINGFIELD – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, is urging Illinoisans this week to take preventive actions during this extremely hot weather to avoid heat-related illness, such as heat-stroke.
“High temperatures and humidity can lead to serious health problems. That’s why prevention is the best defense against heat-related illness,” Dr. Arnold said. “To help your body cope with high temperatures, take steps to stay cool, increase your fluid intake, decrease your activities and wear appropriate clothing.”
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. Arnold encourages Illinoisans to follow these prevention tips to beat the heat and related illness:
• Drink more of 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 Fahrenheit.
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 seniors at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or 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 Guide.