MAGIC VALLEY — Idaho health officials are advising people of steps they can take and things to look out for to avoid heat exhaustion and heat strokes as the potentially deadly heatwave hits the Pacific Northwest.
“With heat exhaustion, you want to look for someone that’s very pale and sweating heavily. Anyone that’s having heart issues, heart complications or if their pulse is racing those are signs that their body is struggling with the heat," said Brianna Bodily with the South Central Public Health District.
If someone does not get the proper medical attention, heat exhaustion could lead to heat strokes, which health officials say can cause inability to sweat, difficulty breathing, and even confusion.
“And that’s one of the big dangers with these kinds of illnesses is that that confusion is not necessarily uncommon. So somebody who might be going through a heat illness might not be able to recognize it as a heat illness so they might not understand what they need to do to get that care their bodies need or even ask for help," Bodily said.
Martha Taylor, Medical Director of Urgent Care for St. Luke’s Health System, said they have already started to see patients coming in with heat exhaustion or heat strokes within the past week.
“I would anticipate we are going to see more. Especially now that the outdoor festivals are coming around. People are spending a lot more time outside with the weather, sporting events are hitting a full swing now with school being out," Taylor said.
But there are steps you could take to avoid these scenarios, like drinking lots of water and staying in places with air conditioning.
“But also things like wearing sunblock. If you get sunburned that can raise your internal temperature and that combined with the outdoors can cause some really serious problems trying to fight off that heat. Wearing loose clothing that is light-colored to reflect as much of that heat as possible and allow as much of that heat to bounce off of your body as possible," Bodily said.
Although they advise keeping hydrated, they also say there are certain drinks you should avoid.
“Caffeine supplements, things that have a lot of stimulants in them because those raise your heart rate. They cause you to lose water because caffeine is a diuretic so it causes you to lose water and it raises your heart rate which already happens as a result of heat," Taylor said.
The South Central Public Health District also advises checking your temperature periodically to make sure your body is handling the heat well.
“That’s another good way to see if you are handling the heat OK. If you get up to fever-like temperatures you are too hot you need to cool down. If you get up to 103 or higher that's an emergency medical situation you need medical care right away," Bodily said.
In case someone around you does experience a heat stroke, they advise calling 911 right away, but they also say there are things you can do while waiting for help.
“Giving them an ice pack putting a cool cloth across the back of their neck, across their forehead. Giving them a cool shower not too cold but cool enough to cool them down slowly but gently all of those things are very quick ways to cool them down," Bodily said.