Heat-related illnesses have accounted for 172 health emergencies in St. Charles County since 2019, including 12 so far this year. The St. Charles County Department of Public Health reminds residents to take precautions in hot weather to avoid severe or even life-threatening illness.
“Heat-related illnesses happen when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough due to high heat, humidity, and/or strenuous activity,” says Sara Evers, Department of Public Health acting director. “Anyone can experience a heat-related illness, but pregnant women, infants, young children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic illnesses are particularly vulnerable to symptoms. It’s important to check the wellbeing of neighbors or family members who are at risk during high temperatures.”
To avoid heat-related illness, Evers suggests taking these precautions:
- Drink more water or other fluids, regardless of activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Avoid alcohol or drinks with large amounts of sugar, as these can cause your body to lose more fluid.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
- Never leave any person or animal in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activity, particularly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or a public library to stay cool. You may also call United Way by dialing 2-1-1 to ask for a list of other available cooling centers.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illnesses and take appropriate steps if you notice any of the following:
- Heat cramps – Signs include muscle aches, caused by over-exertion and depletion of salt and/or moisture in the body due to sweating. Individuals usually experience pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. Stop activity immediately, drink a cool, non-alcoholic drink and rest in a cool place for several hours.
- Heat exhaustion – Signs include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and/or clammy skin; a fast, but weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; and fainting. Rest for several hours in a cool place and drink a cool, non-alcoholic drink. If a person suffering from heat exhaustion is vomiting, seek immediate medical attention.
- Heat stroke – This is a life-threatening condition when the body’s temperature control system shuts down. Immediate cooling and medical care are required. DO NOT give a victim of heat stroke fluids unless told to do so by a medical professional. Symptoms include high body temperature above 103 degrees; hot, red skin; a rapid and strong pulse; and unconsciousness. Call 9-1-1 for anyone experiencing these symptoms.
For more information about hot weather precautions, go to sccmo.org/HotWeatherDangers.