OREGON COUNTY -- As summertime has arrived in southern Missouri so has hotter temperatures.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reminds Missourians to take extra precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.
Last year, 34 Missourians died due to heat-related causes. Three were children younger than 5-years old, and 18 were 65 or older. Between 2000 and 2007, 194 Missourians died due to heat-related causes, none in Oregon County.
Oregon County Health Department Director Shelia Russell said the elderly and chronically ill are more vulnerable to the effects of high temperatures. She said they perspire less and are more likely to have other health problems requiring medications that can impair the body's response to heat. People should check with their doctor or pharmacist to find out if their medications make them more sensitive to heat.
Russell said some seniors on fixed incomes may not have air conditioning or may not be able to afford the extra expense of running it. "People need to check on elderly family members and neighbors to confirm they are not suffering from the effects of heat," she said.
Young children are also sensitive to heat and are at great risk of heat-related illness and death. "Infants and children should never be left unattended in hot environments, especially cars, even if they are running and the air conditioner is on," Russell said. She said it only takes a few minutes for the inside of a car to reach oven-like temperatures, putting anyone left inside at risk of overheating.
Russell said small children should not be allowed to play in or around cars. "Small children can quickly be trapped because they are not big enough to open or roll down the windows to get out. Even older children are at risk if they fall asleep in a hot vehicle or play or hide in the trunk of a car," she said.
Infants and children up to four-years of age are very sensitive to hot weather and rely on adults to regulate their environment and provide liquids, Russell said. Without adult help and management, small children often don't drink as much liquid as they should and they can become dehydrated quickly.
Russell gave some warning signs for heat-related illness and ways to treat it.
* Heavy sweating
* Muscle cramps
* Tiredness and weakness
* Dizziness or fainting
* Nausea or vomiting
What to do:
* Rest in a cool, preferably air conditioned area.
* Loosen clothing.
* Cool down with a shower, bath or sponge bath.
* Drink plenty of non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverages.
* Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last more than one hour.
Heat stroke (life threatening)
* Extremely high body temperature.
* Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
* Rapid pulse
* Throbbing headaches
What to do:
* Call for immediate medical assistance.
* Move the victim to a cool shady area.
* Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. (For example: immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; or sponge with cool water. Avoid the use of fans.)
* Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees F.
* Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
* Get medical assistance as soon as possible.