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The Good Old Summertime – Are You Ready?

Summer is here and it’s time for reunions, fairs, barbecues, picnics and other outdoor activities. But when the good old summertime arrives in St. Louis, extreme heat is usually not very far away. The City of St. Louis Department of Health wants residents to have a safe summer and is encouraging everyone, especially the elderly and those who exercise or work outdoors, to review their heat safety plans. Extreme heat can be life threatening and can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded.

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“When it gets hot the elderly are at a greater risk for heat- related illnesses,” said Pamela Rice Walker, Health Director for the City of St. Louis. Walker said as we get older our bodies do not adjust well to sudden changes in temperature. Also, seniors tend to have chronic medical conditions that change normal body responses to heat.  “Older residents are also more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.” Walker added.

The Health Department is warning people who exercise outdoors during the summer that they are also at greater risk for heat- related illnesses. Individuals exercising in the heat are more likely to become dehydrated during their workout. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several recommends for citizens engaging in outdoor work or exercise. Individuals should cut back on outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day. They should stop all activity and get to a cool environment when feeling faint or weak. Outdoor activities, including athletic workouts and practices, should be scheduled earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler. Everyone should drink more water than usual and not wait until thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of a heat-related illness.

The best protection against extreme heat is staying in an air-conditioned building. Thermostats should be set to no warmer than 78°F, particularly when children or elderly are in the building.

Fans create additional health risks during extreme heat. Therefore, fans should not be relied on as a primary cooling source. At high temperatures, air from a fan actually increases the body’s heat stress by delivering heated air to the body faster than the body can get rid of the heat.

For additional information related to extreme heat visit the CDC’s websites here and here.

Written by Harold L. Bailey, Jr., Public Information Officer 

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