Summer heat has arrived early for Pettis County and with predicted temperatures expected to rise several degrees above normal throughout the weekend, residents should consider taking precautions to prevent heat-related health problems.
“(Thursday) we are going to be about 10 degrees above normal through at least the weekend, until we get into Monday,” Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency Director David Clippert said. “We are expecting (Thursday) to be around 92. That’s the Kansas City area so we could be a little lower then that.”
Clippert added that the humidity levels were also rising.
“(Wednesday) we were looking at 50 percent, which isn’t too bad,” he noted. “When I was looking (Thursday), it may be up into the 70s or 80s, which is when things start to really get uncomfortable.”
The heat index, instead of climbing into the triple digits, looks to be staying in the high 90s.
“The National Weather Service hasn’t stated whether they are going to put out any type of a advisory or warning,” Clippert added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.”
Clippert offered tips for staying safe during a heat wave, such as drinking plenty of water as well as avoiding heavy use of caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
“If you are outside playing or working, take some breaks,” he said. “Get into the shade and cool down a little bit. Wear light colored clothing and dress for it.”
Clippert added that after a cool late spring, this is the first time temperatures have risen so dramatically.
“But when we get into July and August it’s going to be a pretty common thing,” he said. “It’s just that time of year and people need to be aware and pay attention if they are getting sick. Heat exhaustion is an emergency and requires medical attention and intervention.”
Those with “heat stress” may or may not need medical assistance, but Clippert said they do need to be placed in a cool area and given plenty of fluids. He added that at this time there are no official cooling centers in Sedalia, but noted there are many places one can go to find air-conditioning.
“We have opened up cooling centers in the past, and in the eight years I’ve been here, no one has showed up,” he said. “We do recommend to people open buildings, the libraries … the Convention Center. There are plenty of places to go to cool down.”
Pettis County Health Center Administrator Joann Martin explained the stages of heat-related illnesses.
“There’s a milder form of heat-related illness,” she said. “Generally people will feel hot, they are flushed in the face, they may feel dizzy.”
Martin said in the milder form the person is aware they are too hot and usually seek shelter before it’s too late. Once inside a cool place they should drink plenty of fluids.
“Sometimes people may feel sick to their stomach,” she added. “It may be more challenging to drink fluids.”
She suggested they take small sips and added that the most important concept is to “cool off.”
In a more serious version of heat sickness, a person will feel dizzy and may faint. They will sweat profusely, vomit and have cramping of the large muscles. Helping a person to a cool place, loosening their clothing and placing cool clothes on them is important along with re-hydration.
Martin added that the most serious level of heat-related illness is heat stroke. In heat stroke the person is unresponsive and their core body temperature may rise to 107 to 108 degrees. They may stop sweating and look very ill. A heat stroke situation is a medical emergency. The person is not able to re-hydrate themselves and must be given intravenous fluids.
“We hope most people will pay attention to what their body is telling them,” Martin said.
She added that water is “still the best” and is more important than giving someone a sports drink.
She also said that those who work outside, such as construction workers, often have plans in place to keep cool versus the weekend warrior who sits in air-conditioning during the week and then decides to mow the grass in the middle of the day on the weekend.
Another misnomer is those who say they can’t go into the air-conditioning because the heat will be worse when they go back outside.
“Heat stress is cumulative,” Martin noted. “It continues to build in the body.”
If the body is cooled it can start recovering; if one stays warm or hot the body will continue to become more stressed.
During heat waves Martin also encouraged people to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.