Health officials tips to stay cool during 4th of July heat wave after first heat-related death

Besides taking care of yourself, be on the lookout for any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in loved ones.

Fred Bodimer
July 03, 2019 - 7:42 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Local health officials are reminding residents to take this current heat wave seriously -- and be on the lookout for any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in loved ones.  The warning comes as St. Louis City announces its first official heat-related death of the summer.
"So there are some differences in what we would term heat exhaustion and heat stroke," said SSM Health family medicine physician Dr. Jennifer Wessels, the VP of Medical Affairs at the SSM Health Medical Group. "When someone is outside for prolonged periods of time and in the heat, especially if they're not used to that hot weather, it can make you ill.  People who are elderly, very young children or people who might have some chronic diseases would be most at risk.  You might start noticing some symptoms first off like muscle cramps.  That can be like an early warning sign that you might be dehydrated and you might need to seek an area that might be cooler or in the shade."

"If that progresses to fatigue or dizziness, or you may have headaches, vomiting, you may even faint or pass out, then you know that your heat exhaustion is progressing and you need to seek medical treatment, you need to get into a cooler area and you need to re-hydrate yourself."

Dr. Wessels says a heat stroke can be a medical emergency.  

"It can be life-threatening," Wessels tells KMOX.   "If someone has what we call mental status changes, meaning they're confused or disoriented, that is the time to definitely seek urgent medical assistance.  Someone's core body temperature can become elevated, like to a temperature of 104 degrees or higher, temperatures like we'd see in a fever.  That can really cause massive effects on the body and the brain."

Wessels has these tips for staying hydrated. 

"Good things to do would be to make sure you are staying hydrated and drinking water or other fluids all day long.   Drinks that have alcohol in them, drinks that have high amounts of caffeine in them, are not going to be the best to hydrate you.  You want to stick with water or Gatorade or Propel, other electrolyte drinks that can really help.   You also want to make sure that if you are outside, you are taking frequent breaks, coming into either an air conditioned area or a shady area.  And you want to make sure that you are dressing appropriately in lightweight, cool clothing that's also breathable."

The St. Louis Fire Department is reporting the first suspected heat death of the summer, an elderly man found Sunday night. Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the man was in an un-airconditioned, second story apartment in the 5400 block of Partridge. The death capped off a weekend of more than 200 heat cases in the city, many of them at the outdoor Pride St. Louis events. More than 25 people had to be taken to the hospital.

Jenkerson says when you check on your elderly relatives and neighbors, do it in person, not on the phone, so you can get a sense for how the room feels, and feel their skin. 

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