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Be Alert for Heat-Related Health Concerns

June 26, 2009
Reinbeck Courier

As if on cue, hot and muggy weather has moved in to Iowa, just as Sunday marked the first official day of summer. The Iowa Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans to brush up on their hot weather health skills. "It's easy to underestimate just how dangerous extreme heat and humidity can be, especially during the first wave of the season," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "There are precautions to take and signals to watch for when it comes to heat exhaustion and heat stroke."

Take care of each other. Watch the condition of children and co- workers or those around you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or even lose consciousness. Remember infants, children less than five, and those over 65 years of age are especially at risk for heat illness. Children may not be able to tell you that they are getting hot or dehydrated, but may get tired or fussy, so it is important that you get children to drink cool beverages regularly when it is warm.

IDPH recommends the following to stay healthy during hot and humid weather:

Drink plenty of non-alcoholic, sugar-free fluids like water. If possible, avoid caffeinated and carbonated beverages. Cool beverages can help keep your body temperature normal when out in hot weather.

oDon't wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. If you are thirsty, you are already low on fluids. Drink regularly and make sure your children keep fluids up.

oWhen temperatures are high, drinking two to four 8-ounce glasses of cool fluid an hour will help keep you hydrated.

o If you drink enough fluid that you have to urinate every couple of hours or more, you are probably keeping up with your fluid needs.

Salt and minerals lost through heavy sweating can be replaced with a variety of foods and beverages:

oRe-hydration fluids like sports beverages designed for athletes and Pedialyte for young children.

oSalty foods like salted crackers, or

oFruits, especially bananas, can help replace the potassium lost in perspiration.

Work outdoors during the cooler times of day and wear appropriate, loose, light-weight clothing.

Keep up a normal diet, but avoid hot foods and heavy meals. Eat plenty of salads and fruits. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, as they can make you thirstier.

If working outdoors, wear sunscreen, large brimmed hats and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Ventilation and air movement will help reduce heat-related illness. Use fans and air conditioning whenever possible. Take cool showers to help cool off.

Pace yourself. Start slowly and pick up intensity gradually. If exertion makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP the activity.

Take frequent breaks, at least 5 minutes each hour, to drink cool fluids and rest in a shady or air conditioned area.

For more information about staying healthy in the summer heat, visit



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