IA Dept. of Public Health Heat Safety Tips

News, Weather

June 27th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

High temperatures are expected to settle in over Iowa today and stick around for several days. Afternoon temperatures are forecast to reach the high 90s and low 100s. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans even young and healthy individuals can have a heat-related illness if they are very active during hot weather or the heat index is very high.

“People suffer heat-related illness when the temperature and humidity are high. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough,” said IPDH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Especially when the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly.”

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, the people at greatest risk include:

  • People age 65 or older.
  • Infants and young children.
  • Overweight individuals.
  • People who are performing manual labor or exercising outdoors.
  • People who have chronic health conditions, especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as those for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.

To protect your health when temperatures and humidity are high, remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following tips are important:

  • Increase fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. The best way to tell you are well-hydrated is if your urine is light yellow. If it gets dark, stop and rehydrate by drinking water immediately.
  • If experiencing a lot of sweating, especially over several hours, replace salt and minerals by eating foods like bananas and salty crackers, or drink rehydrating beverages that contain salts, such as sports drinks and special rehydration fluids.
  • Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and wear sunscreen.
  • Wear hats that shade your face, such as sun hats, visors, etc.
  • Keep in the shade or air conditioned areas as much as possible.
  • Work slowly if you are not used to working or exercising in heat and humidity. Stop immediately if you get dizzy, nauseated, or feel weak. Go into an air conditioned space and drink cool liquids.
  • Use a buddy system. Watch others for heat-induced illness, since some people may not realize they are suffering heat-related illnesses and can become confused or lose consciousness.

For more information about preventing heat-related illness, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp.