Beating the Heat

Jun 28, 2012

Cooling centers are now open throughout Williamson County to help residents battle the extreme heat.

The county's Emergency Management Agency says people can get a break from the heat at the city hall buildings in Herrin, Creal Springs, Cambria and Pittsburg. Cooling centers are also available at the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion and the First United Methodist Church in Johnston City. For locations in Carterville, call 618-985-8060.

In Jackson County, Carbondale City Hall is a cooling center location. Department of Human Services offices throughout the region are also offering people a spot to cool off.

The American Red Cross and eMedicineHealth have some safety reminders to help avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion.  Heat exhaustion is typically caused when people who are not well adjusted to heat exercise or work in a hot, humid environment. At high temperatures, the body cools itself largely through evaporation of sweat. When it is very humid, this mechanism does not work properly. The body loses a combination of fluids and salts (electrolytes). When this is accompanied by an inadequate replacement of fluids, disturbances in the circulation may result that are similar to a mild form of shock.

Heat stroke may often develop rapidly. Medical conditions or medications that impair the body's ability to sweat may predispose people to this problem. Heat stroke happens in the following two ways: The classic form occurs in people whose cooling mechanisms are impaired. The exertional form occurs in previously healthy people who are undergoing strenuous activity in a hot environment. Infants, children under the age of 4, the overweight, and the elderly are more likely to have this problem, as are those who are taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure, heart disease, or depression.

Heat Exhaustion symptoms include: Often pale with cool, moist skin; Sweating profusely; Muscle cramps or pains; Feels faint or dizzy; May complain of headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea; Core temperature elevated-usually more than 100 F (37.7 C) and the pulse rate increased.

Heat stroke symptoms include: Unconscious or has a markedly abnormal mental status (dizziness, confusion, hallucinations, or coma); Flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water); May have slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later; May be hyperventilating; Core temperature of 105 F (40.5 C) or more.

Health experts suggest you seek medical care if you are not sure what is wrong, if you do not know what to do for the problem, or if the person is not responding to what you are doing for them. Call a doctor for heat exhaustion if the person is unable to keep fluids down or if their mental status begins to deteriorate. Symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, or abdominal pain may indicate that the heat exhaustion is accompanied by more serious medical problems. A person with suspected heat stroke should always go to the hospital.

For heat exhaustion, a person should go to the hospital if any of the following are present: Loss of consciousness, confusion, or delirium; Chest or abdominal pain; Inability to drink fluids; Continuous vomiting; Temperature more than 104 F (40 C); Temperature that is rising despite attempts to cool the person; Any person with other serious ongoing medical problems.