Extreme heat can be deadly

This chart shows the warning signs to look for in the event of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Image provided by Barron County Emergency Services

With summer weather here, the Barron County Sheriff’s Department reminds residents and visitors about the dangers associated with extreme heat.

“Many victims of heat-related deaths are socially isolated, maintaining little contact with family and friends.,” Mike Judy, director Barron County Emergency Services, said. “That is why it’s important to check on family, friends, and neighbors during extreme heat conditions.”

Barron County is no stranger to heat-related accidents. At least two heat-related deaths were reported in Barron County by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services during a heat wave that struck in late June and early July of 2012. One of the fatalities was a 71-year-old woman from Cameron.

During the same stretch of hot weather, Mayo Clinic Health System-Northland treated four people with illnesses directly related to the near-triple-digit temperatures leading up to the Fourth of July, a hospital spokesman said at the time.

The Barron County press release said those most vulnerable to the heat include very young children, the elderly, and people with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Individuals who are on certain medications may also be more susceptible to illness during extreme heat events.

“It’s important to remember that you are most at risk in cars and homes with little or no air conditioning,” the release added.

Barron County Emergency Services is prepared to open cooling centers during periods of extreme heat, which are great places to get away from the weather and enjoy the company or your friends and neighbors.

If you are in need of a cooling center during extreme heat conditions, please contact the Barron County 911 Center at 715-537-3106.

Experts say the early symptoms of heat stress include light-headedness, dizziness, abdominal cramping and nausea. Later on, severe symptoms could include erratic behavior, confusion or sleepiness, which can lead directly to loss of consciousness.

Experts also say an internal temperature of 104 degrees fahrenheit is a general tipping point when treating patients.

Precautions to remember:

• Keep an eye on family members, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly.

• Stay out of direct sunlight, wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and use sunscreen to prevent burns, which compromise the body’s ability to fight the heat.

• Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids.

• Watch the color of your or the patient’s urine. If it’s clear, you’re probably drinking enough. If it’s darker, drink more.

• If working in hot conditions can’t be avoided, drink at least 32 ounces of fluid each hour.

• Air conditioning is essential, especially for the elderly.