Summer is almost upon us and extreme heat days are not far behind. Today the Department of Health Services is recognizing Heat Awareness Day and encouraging residents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and to take steps to prevent getting sick.
In 2020, 689 people went to the emergency department, 67 people were hospitalized, and seven people died in Wisconsin due to heat-related causes. Emergency department visits were highest among younger populations aged 15-34, while hospitalizations were most frequent among those aged 65 and older. “Temperatures in Wisconsin are projected to keep increasing over time due to climate change. Wisconsinites need to be on alert for extremely warm days and proactively take steps to ensure their safety,” said Dr. Jon Meiman, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health.
Some people are more likely to get sick from the heat, including:
- Older adults and younger children
- People who work outside
- People attending summer festivals
- People without access to air conditioning
- People who take certain medications like diuretics (“water pills”) or psychotropics
Follow these tips to stay cool on hot days:
- Stay in air conditioning. When possible, stay in air conditioning on hot days. If you don’t have air conditioning, head to libraries, malls, and other public spaces to keep cool.
- Check on loved ones. Be sure to check on older friends and neighbors who live alone.
- Avoid the hottest part of the day. If you have to be outside, stick to the cooler morning and evening hours. Wear light, loose clothing and take frequent, air conditioned or shade breaks.
- Beware of hot cars. Never leave a person or a pet in a parked car, even for a short time. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water on hot days. Avoid alcohol and hot, heavy meals.
- Stay informed. Watch your local weather forecasts so you can plan outdoor activities safely. Pay attention to any extreme heat alerts.
- Remember that anyone can get sick from the heat. In Wisconsin, people ages 15-34 are the most likely to report to the ER for getting sick from the heat. No matter your age or how healthy you are, it’s important to stay cool, hydrated, and informed on hot days.
If you start feeling overheated, weak, dizzy, nauseated, or have muscle cramps, you could be experiencing heat illness. Move to air conditioning, drink water, get under a fan, and put on cool washcloths. If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve, go to the emergency room.