Summer is here, and as the temperatures and humidity rise, so do the risks of developing a heat-related illness.
Over the next five to seven days temperatures are expected to peak in the lower to mid 90s with heat indexes that could make temperatures feel like more than 100 degrees, the National Weather Service reports.
When the temperatures soar, health care professionals recommend paying close attention to your body to prevent it from overheating, or illnesses such as heat stroke.
Saiveon McCaleb, 10, of Fort Dodge, reaches the bottom of a water slide at the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center Tuesday afternoon. Splashing around in the cool refreshing water is one way to keep from overheating during the summer’s hottest days.
"Usually with a heat related illness like heat stroke your body temperature will start to elevate," said Kari Prescott, director of the Webster County Health Department. "When you get hot, move to a cool area if you are able."
Keeping the air conditioner on in hot weather and staying indoors at home is about the best solution to staying cool and preventing illness, although that may not be a possibility for everyone.
"If you are mobile and cam get somewhere that is cool, even if you just go to the mall for a little while to cool off, it will help," Prescott said.
People most at risk for experiencing heat related illness are the elderly and infants.
"Be sure to check up on your elderly family and friends," said Prescott.
Keeping infants and small children cool in an un-air-conditoned room can be as simple as letting them lay on a blanket on the floor in a diaper, Prescott said.
"Put a little powder on them; it will keep them from rashing up if they sweat," she said.
Heat stroke isn't as common in teenagers, but that doesn't mean they are completely resistant.
'Teens are a little more resilient," said Prescott. "But you still want to watch your teenagers to make sure they are staying hydrated, especially when they are playing outdoor sports." Symptoms of heat stroke can include excessive sweating, elevated body temperature, increased heartbeat, shallow breathing, lightheadedness, dry flushed skin, and faintness. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, Prescott said the best thing to do is to make sure the person is kept cool either by moving to a shaded or air-conditioned area, but to avoid keeping the individual from getting to cool to soon.
"You don't want them to go from one extreme to the next," she said. "The first thing you should do is call 911, spray some water or fan them and keep them cool with a damp cloth to help replenish what they have sweated off."
Keeping cool outdoors at places such as a local aquatic center or swimming beach may be an option for some, but Prescott does not recommend it for those who are not already accustomed to the heat.
"Cooling off at the pool can be good," she said. "But the combination of water and sun can take its toll. You can become dehydrated if you are not used to the sun and heat."
Heat does not just take its toll on human beings, pets, such as dogs and cats, can also be affected by the extreme temperatures and humidity and should be kept cool and hydrated at all times.
Dr. Mike Bottorff, a veterinarian at East Lawn Animal Hospital, said pets should never be left in a hot car.
"They have no business being left in an automobile, even if it is just for a few minutes," said Bottorff. "A car can quickly get up to baking temperatures and if you are not in and out in just a couple of minutes your pets will overheat and be in danger."
Indoor pets should be kept indoors as much as possible when the temperatures rise and outdoor pets should have a fresh supply of cool water to drink and plenty of shade. Bottorff also recommends a plastic children's swimming pool for dogs to keep cool and hydrated.
"Dogs don't sweat, they pant," said Bottorff. "Dehydration is a big deal; check their water supply frequently. If you suspect your pet is overheated spray them with a garden hose or faucet and use a fan to keep them cool. It works quickly, but animals can go into shock and that can be deadly."