JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Joplin area is under an onslaught of heat warnings. High temperatures are expected to continue throughout the week, as winds will transport more humidity.
Already, cooling centers have opened at local chapters of the Salvation Army and Red Cross.
Health organizations are releasing heat warnings and advisories for heat-related illnesses.
Most of those advisories state a common caveat: Kids and senior citizens are most susceptible to heat-related problems.
But the warnings are for different reasons.
Kids’ bodies are just as able to handle hot conditions as a healthy adult, said Ryan Talken, environmental health supervisor for the Joplin Health Department. But kids may not be familiar with symptoms of heat sickness.
“Kids rely on others to regulate their activity level and the amount of fluids they drink,” Talken said. “They may not know they are thirsty, or they may not slow down.”
That means parents or anyone else watching kids outside should keep a sharper eye on them.
Have water available and make sure kids stay hydrated, Talken said. Kids should also use sunscreen if they are going to play outside.
While kids are more at risk because of attention issues, senior citizens’ ability to handle heat declines with age.
“They aren’t able to compensate for heat stress as younger people are,” Talken said.
According to information from the CDC:
- Seniors don’t adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
- Seniors are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that upset normal body responses to heat.
- Seniors are more likely to take a prescription medication that impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature or inhibit perspiration.
Talken advises seniors to stay inside during the hottest part of the day and to watch for headaches, nausea, confusion or dizziness.
“Pay attention to those things and slow down,” Talken said. “And make sure to drink plenty of fluids.”
What to watch for
Humans of all ages are at risk for heat-related illnesses during a hot spell, such as the one currently affecting the Joplin area. Heat-related illnesses identified by the CDC include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps and heat rash.
Of those five, heat stroke is the most serious disorder. It occurs when the body can’t control its own temperature Ñ when a heat stroke occurs, the body can get as high as 106 degrees or more, which can cause death or permanent disability if not treated immediately.
Heat exhaustion is more specific, according to the CDC. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt caused by a lot of sweating. Many of the symptoms are the same as heat stroke, but also include muscle cramps, fast and shallow breathing, clammy skin and/or a pale, flushed complexion.
When the weather is excessively hot, the National Weather Service urges people to drink plenty of water, stay in air-conditioned rooms or out of the sun and check on neighbors, the elderly and pets.