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Last updated 7:52PM ET
March 3, 2021
Tips For Beating Heat Exhaustion
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - With temperatures already setting records and likely to climb higher Friday, the Department of Public Health on Thursday recommended special measures to avoid heat-related illnesses.

"If you do not have to be outside in the heat, do not," Dr. Donald Williamson said.

Williamson, the state health officer, said temperatures topping 100 degrees during the day and not dipping below 75 at night create extremely dangerous conditions, especially when paired with high levels of humidity that push the heat index even higher.

"This creates a situation where many citizens of Alabama are in extreme danger of heat-related illnesses," Williamson said.

Working outside in high heat or staying inside in an unairconditioned space can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or, most seriously, heat stroke.

Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are generally not life-threatening and can usually be treated by drinking fluids and moving inside to a cooler place.

Heat stroke, Williamson said, is "the failure of the body's temperature control system." The symptoms include nausea, dizziness and lightheadedness. Williamson said anyone exhibiting those symptoms should seek immediate treatment because there is a danger of slipping into a coma or even death.

People over 65 are especially at risk for heat-related illnesses, Williamson said. This is, in part, because they may have other health conditions that already weaken them and also because some of their medications may have a dehydrating effect.

Williamson said the Alabama Department of Senior Services will have all of its senior centers open Friday for seniors to come in and cool down. He also recommended that people with elderly parents or neighbors be sure to check on them to be sure they're keeping cool.

Williamson had a few tips for minimizing risk for people who must be outside:

- Limit activity to the least intense periods of the day, early morning or evening,

- Move more slowly, take frequent breaks and drink a lot of fluids,

- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Williamson also recommended that everyone avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine, which can both contribute to dehydration, and eat lighter meals than usual.

People who do not have airconditioning should seek shelter in a place that does, Williamson said. If that's not possible, he said, sheets soaked in cold water should be draped over fans because simply blowing hot air around does not provide sufficient cooling.

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