The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for portions of Missouri for Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30. As temperatures rise this summer, it is important to prioritize heat related safety measures. Heat-related illnesses can have serious consequences, but with some precautions and awareness, we can create a safer work environment.
Heat-related illnesses often affect the very young, the elderly and the chronically ill, but summer temperatures can also take a toll on healthy young and middle-aged adults. In 2022, 23 people died from heat exposure in Missouri, ranging in age from 2-83 years.
During prolonged periods of high temperatures, using air conditioning – either at home or by seeking shelter in a local cooling center – is the best preventive measure.
“Heat and humidity can place a lot of stress on the body,” said DHSS Director Paula Nickelson. “Heat exhaustion can come on suddenly, with little warning, and lead to heatstroke which becomes a very dangerous situation.”
During excessive heat, Nickelson urges Missourians to check on friends and neighbors, especially those who are elderly and chronically ill. To report a senior citizen or an adult with disabilities who is in need of assistance due to the heat, call the state’s toll-free abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-392-0210, or make a report online. Medications, as well as use of drugs or alcohol, can impair a body’s response to heat, making one more vulnerable to the heat.
Never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle. Four of Missouri’s heat-related deaths in 2022 were individuals in vehicles. Even on a cooler day, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise by 20 degrees in 10 minutes and pose a real threat to anyone left inside. Stress, distraction and being out of a normal routine can all contribute to forgetting a child in a car seat. Check the back seat each time you exit your vehicle.
There are a number of steps individuals can take to stay cool including:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water regardless of your activity level, and do not wait until you are thirsty to do so. Avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages; these actually cause you to lose body fluids.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Wear lightweight, breathable, and loose-fitting clothing that allows air circulation. When outside, consider wearing a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
- Stay cool indoors. Stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible. Find a local cooling center if needed.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully. Try to plan 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, and cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes or shades.
- Stay informed. Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat advisories. Stay informed about the local heat index and adjust safety measures accordingly.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat related illness and how treat them is also important. 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 heat stroke 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 heat stroke you should call 911 immediately. Heat stroke 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 arrive. Do not give the person anything to drink.