Heat-Related Illness

The Ozarks can experience periods of extreme heat in the summertime. When temperatures and humidity rise, so does the potential for heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Conditions such as age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can increase the risk for heat-related illness.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department tracks instances of various heat-related illnesses each year. These illnesses are entirely preventable, yet many instances occur every summer. Below are the latest numbers, plus some tips to help you beat the heat and stay healthy this summer.

Number of heat-related illnesses treated in Greene County in the 2017 summer season: 77

Basic Tips to Beat the HeatBeat the Heat - Heat Illness Prevention

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty; avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Avoid strenuous work or exercise outside during the hottest part of the day. If that is not practical, take frequent breaks and remember to drink plenty of water.
  • Stay in an air-conditioned facility; if your home is not air conditioned, visit a shopping center, public library, community center, cooling center or other air-conditioned facility.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Protect yourself from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).
  • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Don't forget about your pets. Follow these tips to keep them safe, too.
    • Do not leave a pet unattended in a hot car.
    • Always make sure pets have access to cool, clean, fresh water as well as adequate food and shelter.
    • Walk your dog in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. If you must walk mid-day, shorten the distance. And keep your dog in the grass as much as possible, as hot sidewalks can burn the pads of their feet.
    • Do not leave a dog outdoors unattended on a chain or tether. Long-term chaining during the summer can result in countless insect bites, dehydration and heat stroke.
    • Protect all pets from wild neighbors. Don't allow them to harass birds, rabbits, squirrels or other wild animals.
  • Finally, be mindful of the heat index. Pay attention to local weather focasts or check the National Weather Service's heat index scale to determine if the risk for a heat-related illness is higher due to high humidity.

Where to Beat the Heat

Get the most up-to-date information about cooling shelters and other programs by calling 2-1-1 or at www.211.org

Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Heat cramps

Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in muscles of legs and abdomen. Heavy sweating.

Treatments: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water; if nausea occurs, discontinue water intake. Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms: Heavy sweating, weakness, cool skin, pale, and clammy. Weak pulse. Normal temperature possible. Possible muscle cramps, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and vomiting.

Treatments: Move individual out of sun, lay him or her down, and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move individual to airconditioned room. Give sips of water; if nausea occurs, discontinue water intake. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention. Consult with a clinician or physician if individual has fluid restrictions (e.g., dialysis patients).

Heat stroke

Symptoms: Altered mental state. Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea and dizziness. High body temperature (106°F or higher). Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating. Sweating likely especially if patient was previously involved in vigorous activity.

Treatments: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance by calling 9-1-1 or get the individual to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Move individual to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging. Use air conditioners. Use fans if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids.

(Source: CDC Excessive Heat Events Guidebook)