July 15, 2015

In Minnesota, we’re accustomed to weather extremes. From below zero weather to a heat index of more than 100° degrees, we see it all over the course of the year. With numerous days over 90° this July, it’s important to take the necessary precautions so you and your family members don’t feel the physical effects the heat can take on your body.

When the temperature reaches over the high 90s, heat-related illnesses become more likely. Heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke or exhaustion, are caused when bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body cools itself by sweating, but under some conditions, like extreme heat, sweating isn’t enough. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, which prevents the body from releasing heat quickly. Symptoms of heat-related illnesses include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, seizures, disorientation, rapid and strong pulse, profuse sweating, thirst and a moderate increase in body temperature.

The most important thing you can do for yourself to prevent heat-related illnesses is to stay cool and hydrated. Follow the simple steps below to protect your health when the temperatures are extremely high:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty fluids, especially water. If your physician limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, make sure to ask how much water you should drink while the weather is hot
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before drinking fluids
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, drinks that are high in sugar and very cold drinks, which can cause stomach cramps
  • Stay cool by staying indoors, in an air-conditioned place. If you don’t have air conditioning or your home is hot, visit public buildings that are cool (libraries, malls)
  • Electric fans will not prevent heat-related illnesses when temperatures reach above 90°
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose fitting clothing
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • If you must be outside in the heat, limit outdoor activity to early morning and evening hours
  • Avoid strenuous exercise. If you must exercise, pace yourself and drink plenty of fluids
  • Rest often in the shade or in an air-conditioned building
  • Check on people who are more at risk to extreme heat. This includes children, pets, elderly and vulnerable people. Check on these individuals frequently and monitor them for signs or symptoms of heat illness. Do not leave children or pets in cars
  • Stay informed by watching the local weather report