Know the symptoms of heat illness

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

It’s no secret that summer in Mississippi is hot, hot, hot.

But with the stifling heat and humidity brought on by the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River comes extra danger as the mercury rises to near the century mark.

Vicksburg and Warren County are expected to have highs in the lower 90s through the weekend with heat indices around 103, just under the threshold for a heat advisory, which typically leads to in increase in heat-related illness.

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Heat-related illnesses is a major problem during summer months, though most people are unaware of the symptoms, Warren County Emergency Manager John Elfer said.

“Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are common. A lot of people experience that and don’t realize what’s going on,” Elfer said.

Heat cramps are just what they sound like — cramping in the legs and abdomen accompanied by heavy sweating. Cramps are often the first sign of heat-related illness and might lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

“You need to slow down and reschedule events outside that are strenuous,” Elfer said. “If you’re going to be working outside, don’t be by yourself.”

Heat exhaustion can cause a fast pulse, dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting.

“If the person starts vomiting, they need to go to the hospital immediately,” Elfer said.

If experiencing any symptoms of heat cramps or exhaustion it’s time to take a break.

“You need to stop what you’re doing and get to a cooler environment,” Elfer said.

But don’t go from the hot, humid Mississippi summer air and plop down in front of the air conditioner. That could be even worse than staying in the hot. The Centers for Disease Control recommends applying a cool, wet cloth to the body and sipping cool, but not ice-cold, water.

“Any extreme temperature change can cause the body to have an adverse reaction,” Elfer said.

Heat stroke causes an alerted mental state, a throbbing headache, confusion and shallow breathing. Sufferers from heat stroke often fall unconscious, Elfer said.

“With a heat stroke, call 911 immediately. A heat stroke can be fatal,” he said, noting that fluids should not be given to someone who is suffering from heat stroke.

Vehicles left sitting in the sun can pose a danger in the summer heat. Temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly climb to over 200 degrees.

“In less than two minutes, a car can go from a safe temperature to an unsafe temperature at 80 degrees outside,” Elfer said.

Parents should be sure to lock their vehicles so curious children playing outside won’t venture into a hot car, he said.