Heat waves like the one the U.S. is experiencing this week can dramatically increase death rates and drive up hospital visits and heat illness cases. And while some people are more at risk than others, there are health risks we all face. It can feel unpleasant. Heat is also unhealthy.
Heat and humidity's stress on the body increases the risk of heat-related illness or death, with illnesses including: Heat exhaustion and heat stroke, dehydration, cardiac problems including heart attack, and lung problems like respiratory infections.
Symptoms of heat-related illness include: Body temperatures of 100-104 degrees, cramping, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and vomiting.
"The real warning signs are things like fatigue, weakness, excessive sweating," said Dr. Rishi P. Singh, the president of the Cleveland Clinic of Martin County, Florida.
Pregnant people, elderly people and those with heart and lung conditions are more at risk. But even healthy individuals should limit their time outside — especially when exercising.
Those on certain blood pressure, allergy, or cold medications, as well as antipsychotics and antidepressants, are also more sensitive to the heat.
These drugs can lower the body's ability to sweat and cool itself, or cause the body to sweat too much, causing dehydration. Children's bodies take longer to produce sweat and adjust to heat, raising their risk as well. The CDC says access to splash pads or pools and cooling centers with AC is crucial to helping prevent some heat related illnesses.
Staying cool and hydrated is key. Pediatricians with the Cleveland Clinic suggest children drink a full bottle of water before heading outside.
Adults and children should drink water throughout the day. Adults should avoid alcohol in the heat and limit outdoor exercise time and intensity.
And everyone should take a break in the AC or shade about every half hour to an hour.
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