Heat-Related Illness Risks and Prevention


It is the hottest day of the year so far, and there are several hazardous weather advisories in effect. As we’re in record high temperatures right now, the risk for heat-related illnesses is very high.

KLEW News Reporter Shannon Moudy spoke with a local physician about risks and prevention.

"Generally your body is actually very good at keeping you cool, it's very efficient,” said Dr. Tim Dykstra, Valley Medical Center.

Doctor Tim Dykstra of Valley Medical Center, a division of Catalyst Medical Group, says temperature alone isn’t the most dangerous part of summer heat.

Dr. Dykstra said, "People focus on heat. They look at the temperature and say, 'Oh it's 103 degrees today, that's really hot.' The best thing to look at is the heat index."

The heat index measures the temperature combined with humidity. It’s the humidity that Dr. Dykstra said prevents you from sweating, your body’s best defense against overheating. But with triple-digit temps, anyone can start to feel the burn. So when should you be concerned?

"When we talk about heat-related illness generally there's three stages we look at,” said Dr. Dykstra. “The first thing would be cramps; people get cramps or muscles jumping. We call that fasciculations."

Dr. Dykstra said these signs should prompt you to seek a cooler area, but they aren’t dangerous. But this situation could turn into heat exhaustion if you stay in the heat.

Dr. Dykstra said, "Sometimes they'll feel chilled or they'll start to feel nauseated. People actually stop sweating."

Dr. Dykstra said those are concerning symptoms that could lead to heat stroke.

"It can be life-threatening people die from heat stroke,” said Dr. Dykstra.

The simplest step to avoid heat-relating illness is to stay indoors between 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m., the hottest time of day. If you have to go outside, wear loose, light-colored clothing and drink plenty of water. Dr. Dykstra recommends a liter every hour.

While flooding caused the most weather related deaths last year, the National Weather Service shows that heat-related deaths are the leading cause of weather-related fatalities over the last 30 years.

Medical experts recommend seeking medical attention if you suspect heat exhaustion could be turning into heat stroke.

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