-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- The meteorological
monster -- dubbed a "heat dome" by weather experts -- that has
wilted much of the United States from the Southwest to the Ohio
Valley for days, pushed into the Northeast Wednesday, bearing
oppressive humidity, temperatures in the high 90s and heat indices
surpassing 100 degrees.
The heat wave, blamed for as many as 13 deaths in the Midwest
alone, is expected to break for some parts of the northern United
States late Wednesday and Thursday with the arrival of a cold
front. The result will be a significant drop in temperatures across
the north central states for the rest of the week. But, the central
and southern Plains, much of the Midwest and even the Northeast
won't feel much change from the extended heat, according to the
National Weather Service.
Triple-digit temperatures are forecast to remain in place across
much of the eastern United States through Saturday, before cooling
off slightly to the mid-90s by Sunday, the weather service
Until the heat breaks, doctors are warning that high
temperatures can cause serious -- and potentially fatal -- health
problems, especially for the very young, the elderly and those with
chronic medical conditions.
Dr. Janyce Sanford, chair of emergency medicine at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, said heat-related
illnesses include a range of ills, from mild to severe.
"Someone who has been working out in the heat may start to experience the beginning stages with heat cramps. As it progresses, the next step is heat exhaustion. They may develop a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of severe weakness," she said in a university news release.
The most serious -- and potentially fatal -- heat-related
illness is heat stroke, Sanford said.
"When you reach this point, the severely elevated body temperature causes an altered mental state, dizziness and ultimately can lead to a loss of consciousness. The muscles can start to break down, which leads to kidney failure; this makes heat stroke a life-threatening illness," she said.
Though rare, heat stroke is most often seen in very young and
elderly people, or people with a chronic illness.
The safest place to be during a heat wave is indoors -- if air
conditioning is available, experts say. Remain in the
air-conditioning as long as possible. And limit outdoor activity to
morning and evening hours when temperatures are relatively
Sanford offers the following advice:
It's also best to avoid caffeine and alcohol. Drinks that
contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar can cause
dehydration and irritability.
For more tips on protecting yourself from the heat, check out
this U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
extreme heat toolkit.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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