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Health

Heat, humidity can be deadly combination

On average, heat kills more people each year than other weather-related hazards, such as tornadoes, floods and lightning.

Will County Emergency Management Agency Director Harold Damron suggest people protect themselves by dressing appropriately for the conditions, keeping hydrated, closing curtains/shades and avoiding all unnecessary outdoor activities.

To further increase awareness about the dangers of extreme heat, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Department of Labor are also offering heat safety tips to help people stay safe when temperatures rise.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), heat accounted for an average of 101 fatalities each year from 2009–2019.

NWS also reports during that same ten-year reporting period an average of 38 children have died due to heat stroke from being left inside a hot vehicle (16 children have died so far in 2019).

Even with the windows slightly open, temperatures inside a vehicle will rise 30 to 40 degrees in less than 30 minutes. The effects of hot cars can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

Several tragic deaths also have occurred when children got into vehicles without their parents’ knowledge and then could not get out. It is important to always lock car doors and trunks, even at home, and keep keys out of children’s reach.

While heat affects everyone, it especially poses danger to those who must do physical labor in the heat and humidity – indoors or outdoors.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related health problem – in fact, it can be fatal if not recognized and treated quickly.

Symptoms of heat stroke include: Confusion; very high body temperature; hot, dry skin or profuse sweating; seizures; and loss of consciousness.

If a worker shows signs of heat stroke, consider it a medical emergency. While first aid is being administered, call 911 if medical professionals are not available on site.

Meanwhile, assist the victim to a shaded, cooler place and remove outer clothing. Soak the worker with cool water and, if possible, use ice, a fan or air conditioning to cool the person.

Other hot weather safety tips include:

• Stay hydrated by drinking at least one to two quarts of fluids daily, even if you do not feel thirsty.

• Avoid alcoholic beverages and drinks containing caffeine.

• Avoid overexertion and strenuous outdoor activities if possible. If you work outdoors, remember to drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks in the shade.

• Take advantage of cooling centers, public pools and air-conditioned stores and malls during periods of extreme heat. Even a few hours a day in air conditioning can help prevent heat-related illnesses.

• Do not forget your pets. Offer pets extra water and place the water bowl in a shaded area if outdoors. Make sure pets have a shady refuge where they can escape direct sun exposure.

If you or someone around you begins experiencing dizziness, nausea, headache, confusion and a rapid pulse, seek medical attention immediately, as these could be the symptoms of heatstroke.

Damron said people who are homeless or do not have air conditioning during extreme heat should consider relocating to a friend or relative’s residence.

They may also visit malls, movie theaters, libraries and similar facilities open to the public or visit a cooling center.

KNOW MORE

For a list of local cooling centers, visit willcountyema.org/warmingcooling. Damron said to call ahead to ensure the facility is open.

In addition, the tollway oasis locations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Department of Human Services cooling centers are open during normal business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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