Staying safe during upcoming heat wave

July 21, 2016

Dangerous heat waves are affecting much of the United States, and Minnesota is bracing for a hot couple of days.

With excessive heat warnings covering most of the state, there are several dangers and safety concerns to consider.

Health Talk spoke with William Roberts, M.D., M.S., a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, to get some helpful safety tips.

Preventing Dehydration

Staying safe during a heat wave entails limiting heat exposure and limiting work in the heat. In order to stay hydrated, drink when you are thirsty. If you are working in the heat and sweating more, it is recommended that you drink more than your usual fluid intake.

Warning Signs of Dehydration and Heat Stroke

Although dehydration does not cause heat stroke, being dehydrated will get you to heat stroke faster. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, decrease in sweating, ill feelings, dizziness and lightheadedness. Heat stroke presents the same symptoms as dehydration, in addition to feelings of confusion and change in personality.

Food and Fluid Intake

Eat normally but consider cool or cold foods rather than hot. Drink normally and do not ignore your thirst. If you are sweating a lot, pick up your fluid intake. You should be urinating light yellow (lemonade color) urine every 2-4 hours. If the urine gets dark like apple juice or you are not urinating at your usual level, you need more fluid.

Keeping Kids Safe

High heat is no time for kids to be exercising vigorously. There is no sports game that is so important it cannot be cancelled for safety. When the dew point is above 65 degrees, the risks start to rise. Above 70 is uncomfortable and risky. Parents should consider pulling their kids out of activities at 70, especially in direct sun. Many gymnasiums in schools and other facilities are not air conditioned so they also become very hot and can be dangerous if the activities are not monitored.

Utilizing AC

Some time in air conditioning can be lifesaving. For elderly in particular who do not have AC, a trip to the mall or going to a movie or store with AC can be lifesaving. As little as 20-30 minutes can help.