Prolonged extreme heat dangerous to athletes, outdoor workers, those without AC

This week and into the weekend is expected to bring record high temperatures and because of the mild weather so far this summer our bodies may not be as prepared as usual to adjust to extremely hot weather, increasing the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Anyone is at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke during prolonged extreme heat but older adults, people with chronic health conditions, outdoor workers and athletes practicing outdoors are at an increased risk.

An overnight cooling shelter will be open at Zion Lutheran Church, 4300 Beaver Ave in Des Moines, Monday and Tuesday night from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. Cots, water and food will be provided, doors are locked at 11:00 pm. Many public places are open to provide respite to the heat, see the full list of daytime cooling centers at /health/ (note: extended cooling hours are available until 9:00 pm on Monday and Tuesday at the Polk County Health Department, North Side Community Center, Southside Community Center and the Noorwoodville Senior Center. Additionally, there are ways to stay safe in your home without air conditioning.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “Additionally, with the start of school, many students are participating in athletics and practicing outdoors. As their bodies are adapting to new levels of exertion, extreme heat can put additional stress on their bodies.”

The Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut is dedicated to reducing heat related deaths in athletes and urges parents and coaches to take the following precautions:

  • Be aware of the signs or heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Slowly increase practice intensity and duration.
  • If possible move outdoor activity indoors or to morning hours.
  • Drink water before, during and after practice.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.

These guidelines also apply to outdoor workers. To learn more about Iowa’s athletic practice guidelines and heat exhaustion and heat stroke prevention visit www.ksi.uconn.edu.

“While those who are exerting themselves outdoors are certainly at an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, periods of prolonged extreme heat like we are expecting this week can quickly raise the temperature to dangerous levels in homes that do not have air conditioning,” said Kozin.

The absolute best way to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke is to get just two hours every day in air conditioning. However, there are ways to stay safe in your home without air conditioning.

  • Do not use appliances such as washer/dryer, dishwasher, stove during afternoon   hours.
  • Keep windows and blinds closed during the day to keep the heat out.
  • Temperatures will be in the 70s for just a few hours in the early morning. Open windows when    temperatures are lowest, from 4-7am.
  • Use a fan to circulate air only, do not use it for your primary cooling source. Do not sit directly in front of a fan. While you may feel cooler, it can actually dehydrate your body quicker, increasing your risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Place a cool washcloth on your head and the back of your neck. Take periodic cool baths or showers.
  • Most importantly, check on those who don’t have air conditioning at least twice each day.

Signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint, body aches, stomach pain, nausea, and elevated body temperature. Heat stroke on the other hand is an emergency situation and can be life threatening. Signs and symptoms to watch for include shock, unconsciousness, and seizures. 

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