LEWISTOWN - As temperatures reach a peak this week, area residents are urged to take precautions against extreme heat and heat-related illness, said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Michael Wolf.
"Hotter and more humid weather is expected this week across much of Pennsylvania, but many people don't understand just how dangerous the heat can be," Wolf said. "Healthy people of any age can have heat-related illnesses."
Temperatures are expected to reach a high of 97 degrees by today, decreasing to 86 degrees throughout the weekend, according to weather.com.
"When you consider the heat index, temperatures are actually well above 100 degrees," said Dr. John Pagnotto, family medicine physician with Geisinger-Lewistown. "Add the humidity, and even when temperatures lower, it'll still be quite warm. It's important that people take precautions."
The Pennsylvania Department of Health suggests drinking more water than usual, avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing, avoiding direct sunlight, limiting outdoor activities to early morning or evening, and staying in air-conditioned areas as much as possible.
"The ultimate way to prevent heat exhaustion or stroke is to stay hydrated," Pagnotto said. "The average person should be drinking roughly eight bottles of water a day, if not more when temperatures are higher. Athletes and people who work outside should take frequent breaks to rehydrate."
KNOW THE SIGNS
* Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; fainting. What To Do: Move to a cooler location; lie down and loosen your clothing; apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible; sip water; if you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
*Heat stroke: High body temperature (above 103 degrees); hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; possible unconsciousness. What To Do: Call 911 immediately - this is a medical emergency; move the person to a cooler environment; reduce the person's body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath; do not give fluids.
According to the Department of Health, adults older than 65, children younger than four, people with existing medical problems, such as heart disease, and those without access to air conditioning are at the greatest risk of developing heat-related illness.
"People could be on their way to having heat exhaustion and not know it," Pagnotto said. "The possibility of heat illness should be taken seriously even if the severity of illness is not immediately apparent."
Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures without adequate replacement of fluids, states the Center for Disease Control website. Warning signs can vary, but may include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting, cool and moist skin, fast and weak pulse and fast and shallow breathing.
Heat stroke, the more serious heat condition, occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature, loses its ability to sweat and is unable to cool down, states cdc.gov. Body temperatures can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes which can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
"These situations can escalate quickly," Pagnotto said. "If there's any doubt, call 911 and get the person medical attention immediately. Work on lowering the person's body temperature until emergency services arrive."