Tips for Staying Cool, Avoiding Illness During a Heat Wave

With temperatures expected to soar into the mid 90s this week, the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch from noon Thursday through 7 p.m. Friday. The combination of heat and heavy humidity will lead to heat index levels between 105 and 115 degrees.

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The Illinois Department of Public Safety is urging residents to take preventative measures to stay cool and reduce the risk of heat-related illness.

“High heat and humidity can lead to serious health problems,” said IDPH director Nirav D. Shah in a press release. “To help your body cope with high temperatures, take steps to stay cool, increase your fluid intake, decrease your activities and wear appropriate clothing.”

The department recommends staying in air-conditioned buildings or visiting cooling centers, limiting outdoor activity during the midday, and wearing loose, lightweight clothing.

To stay hydrated, the IDHS is advising people to drink water before they become thirsty and to drink two to four cups per hour while exercising.  

“When we sweat in high heat and humidity, evaporation slows and the body has to work harder to maintain a normal temperature,” said Dr. Robert Feldman of the Cook County Health and Hospital System in a press release. “Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention.”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion, according to the IDPH and the CCHHS, include heavy sweating, a weak pulse, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. To prevent symptoms from worsening, the IDHS urges people to move to a cooler location, lie down, sip water, and apply cool, wet cloths to the body. Signs of heat stroke, a more serious heat-induced illness, include a rapid pulse, high body temperature (above 103 degrees), hot and flushed skin, and seizures.

Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. The IDHS advises people to call 911 immediately if they suspect they have heat stroke.

Among the most vulnerable to these illnesses are senior citizens, infants, children, the homeless and people with a chronic medical condition. The IDHS encourages people to frequently check up on elderly relatives or friends who are living alone.

Pets are also susceptible to heat-related injuries. Local animal shelter PAWS Chicago advises dog owners to not leave their pets unattended in cars and to regularly groom them as to remove excessive hair to keep them cool.

It is expected to remain hot through the weekend with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. 

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