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Extreme heat can cause health problems

Those dealing with the 90-degree plus weather these past few weeks won’t be surprised to learn that a heat advisory has been issued for the area.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there are steps that should be taken to prevent extreme heat related problems, especially for the most susceptible in the community – children, older adults and people are certain medications.

“People may not often think about it but extreme heat can have devastating effects on health,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “Young children, older adults, and people on certain medications can be particularly vulnerable to heat. Recognizing the signs of heat stress and knowing what to do can save a life.”

Symptoms of heat stress include:

• heavy sweating;

• weakness;

• cold, pale, and clammy skin;

• fast, weak pulse; and

• nausea or vomiting.

Early signs include muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting or near-fainting spells, and a pulse or heart rate greater than 100.

Someone suffering from heat stress should move to a cooler location and lie down. Sip water. Apply cool, wet cloths to the body, especially to the head, neck, arm pits and upper legs near the groin. These areas are where 70 percent of body heat can be lost. Stay in the cool location until the pulse is well under 100 beats per minute.

Signs of the most severe heat-related illness -- heat stroke – include:

• a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit;

• hot, red, dry or moist skin;

• rapid and strong pulse; and

• altered mental status which can range from confusion and agitation to unconsciousness.

Call 911 immediately and take steps to cool the person.

While children and people with communication-related disabilities may be unable to explain what is wrong if heat is causing problems. Changes in their behavior may be caused by heat stress, according to HHS.

Older adults face additional risk of heat stress and heat stroke. The National Institute on Aging’s fact sheet [] explains more about how extreme heat can affect seniors.

To help prevent heat-related illness:

• Spend time in locations with air-conditioning when possible.

• Drink plenty of fluids. Good choices are water and diluted sport electrolyte drinks (1 part sport drink to 2 parts water) unless told otherwise by a doctor.

• Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing

• Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours

As air conditioning use increases, power outages can occur when the electrical grid is overwhelmed. People who rely on electricity-dependent medical devices, like oxygen concentrators, may need assistance so check on family members, friends and neighbors who use this type of equipment.

Community organizations and businesses can help local emergency managers and health departments plan for the community’s health needs amid the summer heat using the HHS emPOWER Map

[]. The map shows the number of Medicare beneficiaries’ claims for electricity-dependent equipment at the national, state, territory, county, and zip code levels.

For more information about how to prevent heat-related illnesses visit the HHS public health emergency preparedness website at For information about how to better prepare for disasters and other emergencies, visit