MISSOULA — We’re now into the early stages of an exceptionally strong and long heatwave, and medical experts are warning people to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
“Do I feel dizzy? Do I feel tired? Do I feel nauseous? And start paying attention to those things. And the minute you start to notice those symptoms within yourself, the best thing you can do is get out of the sun and get out of the heat. We want them drinking cool water, not ice water but cool water, cool shower, cold wash clothes, cold compresses.” - Missoula City-County Health Director D’Shane Barnett
Barnett says heat exhaustion can come on quickly, and lead to heat stroke if the warning signs are not heeded.
“Heat exhaustion is heavy sweating. Their skin is going to become cold and clammy. They might report you know, some nausea, some vomiting. Heatstroke is much more serious. Their skin is actually instead of being cool and clammy it’s going to become very hot and very dry. Their pulse is going to be very fast but very strong and they’re likely going to have a fever of 103 or more. At that point, you need to call 911.”
Community Medical Center Population Health Medical Director Kristin Anderson says excessive heat is especially hard on the elderly for several reasons.
“They are somewhat isolated. People may not be checking on them. They may be still expecting themselves to perform at a level that they could when it’s cooler and still try to do things that really they should take a break from during this really hot time. The medication that the elderly take that will impact their blood volume, their hydration status -- things like that.” - Community Medical Center Population Health Medical Director Kristin Anderson
Anderson says it’s important to check in on older neighbors who are mostly alone and offer whatever help you can.
“Reach out to people that you think may be vulnerable and that you care about. Neighbors that you may not have talked to you in a bit. And check on them. If you have any concerns about them it would be a good idea to see if you could go over, offer them some cool drinks. If they are not in an air-conditioned space this is an opportunity. If they’re doing OK but feeling warm...take them to a place where they might be able to sit in some air conditioning in a safe way.”
In addition, Barnett says it’s important to watch young children as they are not as likely to show warning signs until they are already overheated.