Chicago Weather

As temperatures soar, here's how to protect yourself from heat-related illness

With heat indices approaching 100 degrees, doctors are urging people to take steps to prevent heat-related illness in themselves and others.

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Temperatures and humidity levels began rising on Sunday, ushering in the hottest weather of the year so far.

A number of spots in the Chicago area experienced 90-degree temperatures and head indices approaching 100, which could soar even higher come Monday.

When temperatures climb so high, doctors typically advise people to do anything they can to prevent heat-related illness, but also be aware of the signs and symptoms -- in the event that someone around them becomes ill.

The most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke, can cause permanent disability or death if not treated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. If heat stroke does occur, a person's body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 15 minutes.

The following are symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature

If you think heat stroke is a possibility and you notice symptoms -- call 911 immediately.

“Heat stroke is an emergency,” Dr. Thomas Waters, an emergency medicine physician with the Cleveland Clinic said in a previous article. “It can become deadly very quickly. Heat stroke isn’t something you can just push through, no matter how strong you are. The most important thing you can do is pay attention to the warning signs and listen to your body.”

Less dangerous that heat stroke, heat exhaustion occurs when your body can’t cool itself through sweating, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It often presents with symptoms such as muscle cramps, headaches, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Certain factors make one more susceptible to contracting heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration, activity level and age. According to Waters, babies, children and older adults are at greatest risk for both heat exhaustion and heat exhaust.

If you suspect heat exhaustion, it's crucial that you get out of the elements as quickly as possible.

You should take steps to bring down your body temperature, such as rehydrating, immersing yourself in a tub of cold water and applying ice packs to the neck, armpits and groin. For the best chance of avoiding illness, drink plenty of water, take breaks if you'll be outside for a long time and get to a cool area immediately if you notice signs of heat exhaustion, according to the article.

“Heatstroke is preventable, as long as you make the right moves,” Waters said.

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