By Adam Ganucheau
After temperatures in Northeast Mississippi remained relatively mild in the spring and early summer, the heat has officially set in.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Memphis have predicted that hot temperatures and heavy humidity will continue throughout the summer months. Doctors are urging residents to stay safe and take precautions in the extreme heat.
“We haven’t seen many heat-related illnesses yet this summer, but I know they will increase if the weather stays as hot as (yesterday),” said Dr. Will Jennings, an urgent care physician at Northeast Mississippi Medical Center’s West Tupelo
Medical Clinic. “It is extremely important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and to differentiate between the two.”
Heat stroke is life-threatening and much more dangerous than heat exhaustion. Jennings said being able to tell the difference between the two can sometimes make all the difference.
Symptoms of heat stroke include neurological symptoms like a change in behavior, confusion, agitation, speech problems or difficulty walking. Jennings said if a person has those symptoms, he or she needs to get to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.
However, if you just have a headache, nausea, vomiting or muscle cramps, it is likely only heat exhaustion, which can be treated by getting inside, getting away from the heat source and replacing lost fluids in your body.
Some people are more susceptible to obtain a heat-related illness, like children under the age of 10 and the elderly.
“The population at the greatest risk is the elderly,” Jennings said. “A lot of times, they have to care for themselves, and they can’t recognize the symptoms until it’s too late. It’s important to check on your neighbors and use common sense in those situations.”
Heat-related illness is preventable – Jennings recommends wearing protective clothing like hats, sunglasses and moisture-wicking clothing. In addition, drink a lot of water or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade if you have been sweating for long periods of time.
“Common sense is the best prevention,” he said. “Know the symptoms and differences between the two illnesses and check on your neighbors.”