With National Weather Service forecasters predicting scorching temperatures in the upper 90s and heat index values over 100 degrees well into next week, heat-related illnesses can strike anyone.
On Wednesday, a St. Vincent Clay Hospital spokesperson said only one case of heat-related illness had come into the emergency room, but medical personnel are prepared.
Heat-related illnesses occur when body systems, of humans and animals, are overwhelmed by extreme heat, and begin to function abnormally. Internal cooling mechanisms such as sweating can cease completely, making the body vulnerable to vital organ failure, progressing into life-threatening conditions.
A person experiencing a severe heat-related illness can die without prompt response. Recognizing the symptoms can help save lives.
When the body loses significant amounts of fluid and electrolytes because of heavy sweating it is called heat exhaustion. Warning signs include heavy sweating, pale skin, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. Although a victim's skin may be cool and moist, their pulse rate could be fast and weak with their breathing pant-like and shallow.
If heat exhaustion remains untreated it may progress to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.
Heat stroke occurs when a person's core body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, sweating stops, their skin turns hot and dry to the touch and they experience delirium, convulsions, or lapse into a possible coma.
If a victim experiences these symptoms, move them to a shady area, applying cool, moist towels while monitoring their body temperature until it drops to at least 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit and seek immediate medical assistance.
Because elderly people are more likely to take prescription medicine for chronic medical conditions that could upset their body temperatures, they sometimes do not adjust as well as young people to sudden temperature changes. Officials recommend checking on elderly neighbors during conditions of extreme heat and when a heat advisory is issued.
For more information, log onto the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.