Hot, Humid Conditions Create Potential Health Concerns

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Hot, Humid Conditions

Hot and humid conditions like those associated with summer in Indiana pose a real threat for heat related illness, especially when the temperature moves above 90 degrees and the humidity exceeds 30 percent.

These two factors combine to create the heat index. A heat index of 105 degrees is considered the level where many people begin to experience extreme discomfort or physical stress.

'Any heat wave should be taken seriously," said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director, Marion County Health Department.

Although Marion County has not experienced a heat-related death since 2002, there were 4 heat-related deaths recorded in the county from 2000-2002.

'Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can affect anyone who does not use proper preventative measures,' said Dr. Caine.

Elderly people, infants, alcoholics, chronically ill, overweight people, and persons on certain medications are most susceptible to heat-related illness. Those with cardiac or pulmonary problems also are at higher risk in this type of weather.

Never leave infants, children or pets in parked cars under any circumstances, especially in hot and humid weather conditions.

The threat to senior citizens is heightened because they generally don't sweat as efficiently as younger people, thus making it more difficult to adjust to high heat and humidity. Those age three and under also are more likely to experience heat-related illness.

Symptoms of heat stress include dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, rapid heartbeat, headaches, weakness, cramps, heavy sweating, or hot, dry skin, and changes in a person's mental health.

'Heat injuries can be life threatening,' said Dr. Caine. 'If a person appears to be in trouble, move them to a shady area and attempt to gently cool them off and seek immediate emergency medical care,' said Dr. Caine.

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While air conditioning is the most ideal solution to the heat, many people live or work in situations where it is not available.

Fans alone do not offer appropriate cooling to provide for a healthy situation. People who do not have air conditioning are encouraged to seek out air-conditioned environments like those found in public libraries, shopping malls and some community centers.

The guidelines for keeping safe in extremely hot weather are relatively simple, and while they may be inconvenient, they are important to follow.

Avoiding heat related health problems includes:

# Drinking plenty of cool water.

# Avoiding prolonged exposure to high temperature.

# Attempting to get in air conditioning, even for brief periods. If you do not have air conditioning, move to a location that is air-conditioned.

# Fans are a source of relief when there is low humidity.

# Cooling down with cool baths or showers.

# Wearing loose-fitting, light colored clothing.

# Slowing down from your normal pace.

# Avoiding alcohol.

# Drawing shades, blinds and curtains in rooms exposed to direct sunlight.

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