Water is best defense against heat-related ills
Although temperatures have waned slightly from the high 90 and 100 degree days of the weekend, people could still suffer from a heat-related illness.
"The main thing is to drink plenty of water and don't wait until you're thirsty," said Wadena County Public Health Director Karen Nelson.
Eight to 10 glasses of water a day is the normal amount to drink but when it's hot, people should drink even more, she said, and coffee doesn't count.
Also, air conditioning is the best defense against extreme heat, especially for senior citizens and children less than 4 years old. Three hours per day in air conditioning can bring the body's temperature back to normal, Nelson said. Others at higher risk for heat-related illnesses are people with physical disabilities or behavioral health problems, and those who are taking certain medications, according to a Minnesota Department of Health news release.
If a person doesn't have air conditioning, he or she can go to a shopping mall, restaurant or library to cool off for a couple hours.
Another way to cool off is to take a cool shower or bath, Nelson said. Fans don't help much against the heat when temperatures are more than 90 degrees, she said.
Children are at risk for heat-related illness because their bodies can't regulate temperatures as well as adults, Nelson said. Also, infants can't escape from heat as easily because they rely on adults, she said.
"Pay attention to children and pets," Nelson said. "Don't leave them in the car for any amount of time when temperatures are high."
Heat-related stress can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The most serious, heat stroke, can lead to death.
Heat stroke often results from heavy work in hot environments, usually accompanied by inadequate fluid intake, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.
The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature -- generally greater than 104 degrees -- with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. Skin may be hot and dry, although in heatstroke caused by exertion, the skin is usually moist, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.
Other symptoms are:
Rapid and shallow breathing
Elevated or lowered blood pressure
Cessation of sweating
Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness
Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults
"If someone has symptoms, seek care because it is serious," Nelson said.
The highest temperatures have probably passed but there still could be a few weeks of hot weather, she said.