By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for much of the central United States.
According to Weather.com, the heat index will top out at 110 degrees this afternoon, with actual temperatures reaching as high as 96 degrees. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when heat and humidity are combined. Peak index readings are expected between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Isolated thunderstorms are also expected this afternoon.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 400 people die every year from exposure to extreme heat. Children and the elderly are at an increased risk for illness or death caused by extreme heat.
Recently, OCH Regional Medical Center has seen an increase in heat related medical issues.
“We’ve seen a few people over the last few weeks that have had heat cramps and heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Michael Shaw.
There are a number of health emergencies that can be caused by extended exposure to heat.
“Nausea, vomiting, light-headedness (and) cramps in the major muscle groups are all common symptoms of heat-related injuries,” Shaw said.
The elderly and people working outside are particularly prone to heat exhaustion, caused by excessive loss of water and salt from sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, heavy sweating, extreme weakness, muscle cramps and fast, shallow breathing.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness. During a heat stroke, the body loses the ability to cool itself down, causing the internal temperature to rise rapidly. Symptoms include hallucinations, chills, confusion and slurred speech. A heat stroke can cause permanent damage or death if not treated immediately.
“People just need to use common sense. Do things that are physically demanding during the cooler parts of the day. Make sure you rehydrate with things like Gatorade or Powerade,” Shaw said. “Return inside to cool off and limit episodes of hard work outside.”
Here are some more tips from the CDC for staying safe in high heat:
While participating in strenuous activity outdoors, drink at least two to four glasses of cool fluids every hour.
Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.
Never leave a child or pet in the car, even for a minute. The CDC recommends leaving a stuffed animal in the front seat or on the dashboard to remind yourself that your child is in the backseat.
If you don’t have air conditioning, leave windows open and fans on to keep fresh air flowing.
Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin, and reapply regularly throughout the day.
Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Movie theaters and libraries are good places to spend an afternoon out of the sun.
Check with elderly neighbors and family members several times during the day.
If someone starts to experience any symptoms of heat-related illness, Shaw recommends they should be into a cooler environment as soon as possible.
“They should be covered in cool towels, specifically around the neck, chest, armpits and over their abdomen,” he said. “Any time they have symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention, even if it’s just nausea or vomiting.”