Missoula medical experts say they recognize signs of heat-related illness
MISSOULA – We are now fully into the early stages of an unusually strong and long heat wave, and medical experts are warning young and old to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
“Do I have dizziness? Am I feeling tired? Am I feeling nauseous? And start paying attention to these things. And as soon as you start to notice these symptoms in you, the best thing you can do is protect yourself from the sun and the heat. We want them to drink cool water, not ice water but cool water, a cool shower, cold washed clothes, cold compresses. – D’Shane Barnett, Director of Health for the City and County of Missoula
Barnett says heat exhaustion can happen quickly and lead to heat stroke if the warning signs are not heeded.
“Heat exhaustion is heavy sweating. Their skin will become cold and clammy. They might report, you know, nausea, vomiting. Heat stroke is much more serious. Their skin is actually instead of being cool and clammy, it will get very hot and very dry. Their pulse is going to be very fast but very strong and they are probably going to have a fever of 103 or higher. At this point, you should call 911.
Community Medical Center Population Health Medical Director Kristin Anderson says excessive heat is particularly difficult for older people for several reasons.
“They are a bit isolated. People may not be checking them. They might still be expecting to perform at a level they could reach when it is cooler and still trying to do things they really should take a break from during this very hot time. Medications that older people take that will impact their blood volume, their hydration status, things like that. – Community Medical Center Population Health Medical Director Kristin Anderson
Anderson says it’s important to check on older neighbors who are mostly alone and offer all possible help.
“Reach out to people you think are vulnerable and care about. Neighbors you may not have spoken to in a while. And check them out. If you have any concerns about them, it would be a good idea to see if you can go, offer them some cold drinks. If they’re not in an air-conditioned space, that’s an opportunity. If they’re okay but hot … take them somewhere where they might be able to sit in the air-con safely.
Additionally, Barnett says it’s important to watch young children as they aren’t as likely to show warning signs until they’re already overheated.