With the state of Illinois expecting dangerously high heat levels, including heat indices surpassing 100 degrees, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and other state agencies advise residents to take precautions against heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
“Exposure to extreme heat can cause serious health complications, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “With dangerously high temperatures and humidity in the forecast, I urge everyone to take precautions and protect themselves and their families from overheating and heat related illnesses. This is especially important for very young children, people who are pregnant and those who are older or have chronic health conditions.”
Protect yourself from heatstroke and heat exhaustion by following these tips:
- Stay in an air-conditioned area during the hottest hours of the day. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, go to a public place like a shopping mall or library to stay cool. You can also check for cooling centers in your area at the Keep Cool Illinois website.
- Wear light, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, as it better reflects heat and sunlight. Proactively stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water often and don’t wait until you are thirsty. Avoid beverages that can dehydrate you like those that have caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid unnecessary hard work or activities if you are outside or in a building without air-conditioning, especially during times of peak heat from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Avoid unnecessary sun exposure. When in the sun, wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim.
- Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Those at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
Here are some symptoms of heatstroke to look out for:
- Body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
- Difficulty breathing
- An elevated heart rate
- Skin hot to the touch
- Feeling dizziness, nausea or disorientation
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately. While you are waiting for medical assistance, you can use ice packs on the neck and underarms and drink cool water to lower body temperature.
This is the time of year when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest and can cause severe sunburn. It is important to protect you skin, especially if you are prone to developing skin cancer.
To avoid sunburn, wear sunscreen of SPF30 or higher. Also wear protective clothing, including long sleeved shirts, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat, especially when the UV index is over 6.
Additional information about heat related illnesses and how to avoid them can be found on at the following IDPH Hot Weather: Understanding and Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses, and also on the following National Weather Service heat safety website.
Ready Illinois, the program run by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, provides information on how to protect yourself and your family at this site Extreme Heat.