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Hot Summer Days Raising Heat Health Concerns

July 16, 2007

Temperatures are expected to soar beyond the century mark in many parts of South Dakota this week, and that has health officials warning residents to take precautions to avoid life threatening heat injuries. Webster physician's assistant Lola Pollard says everyone is at risk.

"Some of the contributing factors would be if they are in poor condition or overweight, or if they aren't drinking enough water. Age has a lot to do with it. Infants and children and the elderly are much more susceptible to heat emergencies. And if they've ever had heat stroke before, they are much more likely to get it again."

Pollard notes the elderly should be especially mindful of the risk factors leading to heat stroke.

"With heat stroke, generally temperatures need to reach 90 or over to be a problem, but why some of the elderly are affected more sometimes has to do with their pre-existing illnesses like they might be diabetic or have heart disease. And, of course, always the drugs of abuse would make them more sensitive to the heat."

Pollard advises that with temperatures forecast into the 90s and beyond this week that it's important anyone spending time outdoors stay well-hydrated. She says heat stroke symptoms can range from disorientation to hallucinations, convulsions, lack of sweating, red skin and eventually loss of consciousness.

Pollard warns that anyone showing symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion should be removed to a shady area immediately.

"They should lie down. The recovery is better if they do that. And then you can put some ice packs like on their ankles and on their wrists. That can also be helpful."

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD