Another day of high heat and humidity brings health concerns

DES MOINES — With parts of Iowa expecting high temperatures in triple-digits today along with heat indices as high as 115, hospitals across the state are bracing to handle an influx of heat-related cases.

Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Luke Wood says the risks of heat exhaustion and heat stroke rise with the forecast highs. “When people are either overdressed for the conditions or if they’re not drinking enough water, they are especially prone to developing symptoms related to heat stroke,” Wood says. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, and profuse sweating, while symptoms of the more serious heat stroke include confusion or altered mental status and clammy skin, plus, you might stop sweating.

“That’s really a situation where they need to come in and be evaluated and be treated,” he says. Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The heat index is a calculation based on temperatures and humidity levels, what some call the misery index. Wood says says high humidity can cause heat-related health issues, too, especially if you’re not drinking enough water.

“If somebody goes out into the heat and they’re already dehydrated, and it’s particularly humid weather, then they’re losing even more fluids,” he says. If symptoms develop, get the person out of the sun. Find shade. Get them to drink cool water, and seek medical help if you suspect heat stroke.