Extreme temperatures have caused heat-related illnesses for some in Bloomington-Normal during this week's stretch of record heat, with health officials saying the sweltering conditions can be especially tough on those with underlying medical conditions.
Dr. Anas Sohail said the emergency department at Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal has seen a lot of patients with respiratory issues this week, noting the heat and humidity have made it much worse for them.
“If somebody has COPD or asthma, even for a regular person, going outside, it’s harder to breathe in general,” Sohail said.
Sohail warns heart stroke can happen in 20 minutes. He said confusion and slurred speech are early signs of a potential heat stroke. Sohail said warning signs for heat exhaustion, which is milder, include nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness. He urges anyone who must be outside to drink plenty of water and consume food or drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade. He also advises not to wait until you are thirsty to drink.
Sohail also recommends finding shade if you can.
Dr. Sarah Zallek, chief medical officer at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, said the hospital has been treating patients for signs of heat illness and heat stroke during the record high temperatures.
“We have increased cases of dehydration and generalized weakness these days,” Zallek said. “It has definitely been busier on these hot days.”
Zallek warns against staying outside any longer than necessary.
“People sometimes feel like, oh it’s hot out. I can be alright. I can just push through it and not realize that they need to cool off. They need to break more because the body can’t always compensate, even if you feel strong and healthy.”
Zallek said some heat illnesses cases have been caused by a lack of home air conditioning. The National Weather Service reported heat index levels could reach 110 degrees Friday afternoon before a cool down begins.
The Excessive Heat Warning lasts through 10 p.m. Friday.