The heat and humidity of Missouri can affect everyone but can be especially dangerous to small children, the elderly and the chronically ill. Currently, northern Missouri is under an Excessive Heat Warning until Saturday evening with temperatures expected to climb into the upper 90s, and heat indexes as high as 115 degrees.
A break in the heatwave this week will come on Sunday when temperatures fall below normal and a high of 82 is expected with a chance that we will possibly see rain.
Each year many Missourians suffer from heat-related illnesses, some of which can result in death. In 2018, 19 Missourians died from heat-related illness*.
“As Missouri faces excessive heat forecasts over much of the state, it is important that we remain vigilant about the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). “Missourians have had to face significant severe weather events this year and now, as temperatures rise, we are again urging residents to stay safe and look out for each other. We encourage everyone to check on elderly family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated.”
The elderly and chronically ill are often more vulnerable to heat and humidity because they perspire less and are more likely to be taking medications that can impair the body’s response to heat. Williams urges Missourians to use the state’s toll-free abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-392-0210 to report any elderly or adults with disabilities suffering from the heat and needing assistance.
There are a number of steps individuals can take to stay cool during the summer season including:
- Wear appropriate clothing—Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Stay Cool Indoors—Stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible. Local cooling centers can be found on the DHSS website.
- Stay Hydrated—Drink plenty of fluids regardless of your activity level and don’t wait to until you are thirsty. Avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages, these actually cause you to lose body fluids.
- Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully—Try to plan an outdoor activity for morning or evening hours when the temperature is coolest.
- Pace yourself—Reduce exercise or physical activity during the hottest part of the day and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned place.
- Wear Sunscreen—Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated.
- Prepare your Home—Change air conditioner filters, cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes or shades, and make sure you have portable fans if necessary.
Look before you lock: Especially in the summer heat, the temperature of your car can quickly become deadly, especially for children. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Parents should always check the back seats of your vehicle before you lock it and walk away. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it is empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and how to treat them is also important.
“Symptoms related to heat stroke or heat exhaustion can be very serious,” said Williams. “Developing muscle cramping may be the first indication that you are developing a heat-related illness. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke could save your life or that of a loved one.”
Signs of heat exhaustion may include muscle cramps; heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; and fainting or passing out. If you think you or a loved one are experiencing heat exhaustion you should stop physical activity; move to a cool place—preferably air-conditioned—loosen clothing; and sip cool water. Seek medical attention immediately if you are throwing up, your symptoms get worse or symptoms last longer than one hour.
Signs of heatstroke may include high body temperature (103°F or higher); hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; or loss of consciousness. If you think you or a loved one are experiencing heatstroke you should call 911 immediately. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Move the person to a cool place—preferably air-conditioned. Help lower the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath until medical personnel arrives. Do not give the person anything to drink.