Heat wave prompts health alert

Thursday, July 20, 2006

With temperatures topping the 100-degree mark, residents of Barry County are being warned to watch out for heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Extreme heat affects all ages but is more of risk for the elderly, chronically ill and children under the age of 4. Individuals who work outdoors are also more likely to suffer from the heat.

In response to the recent heat wave, the Barry County Health Department in Cassville has issued the following tips for guarding against heat-related illness.

1) Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

2) Avoid strenuous work or exercise outside during the hottest part of the day. If that is not practical, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.

3) Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothes.

4) Avoid drinks containing alcohol and caffeine.

5) Check on elderly, young children and pets.

6) Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked vehicle.

7) Do not rely on fans as your primary cooling device. Those who do not have access to air conditioning should plan to spend part of their day at the local library, shopping center or other air-conditioned facility.

8) Avoid sitting directly in front of a fan, which re-circulates room air and may actually increase body temperature.

9) Check with a pharmacist or doctor to find out if prescribed medications can increase risk for heat-related illness.

10) Avoid hot foods and heavy meals.

Symptoms of heat stress or heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea or vomiting, growing pale and exhaustion or weakness.

Help with the heat

The OACAC Barry County Neighborhood Center in Cassville can be a good source of assistance, especially when it comes to providing air conditioners and fans to eligible individuals.

So far this summer, the Neighborhood Center has handed out 10 fans and 30 air conditioners to those who qualify for assistance based on income and health needs.

According to Gail Jenkins, Neighborhood Center director, fans and air conditioners are given to the elderly, the disabled or families with a documented medical need. Once a family receives a fan or air conditioner from the Neighborhood Center, they are not eligible to receive another one for three years.

The Neighborhood Center also administers Missouri's LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) program, which provides income-eligible families with help in paying their summer cooling bills.

"It's really hot right now, especially during the last couple of days," said Jenkins. "I worry, especially about the disabled, thee lderly and our low-income families. We need to try to keep them cool."

Anyone who needs assistance and believes they might qualify for the program should contact Jenkins at 847-2140. Individuals are also welcome to drop by the Barry County Neighborhood Center located at 907 S. Main St. in Cassville.

Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Center is closed on Thursday afternoons.

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