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Phoenix’s excessive heat can pose a danger to young, old and even healthy

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – As excessive heat rolls into metro Phoenix, doctors and first responders say drinking water – lots of it – is one of the best deterrents to suffering a heat-related illness.

Last year, 181 people in and around the Valley died of heat-related conditions, according to a report from the Maricopa Association of Governments. It was the most heat-caused deaths in 13 years.

An excessive heat warning was issued for the Valley and other parts of Arizona for Thursday through Saturday. Temperatures were expected to reach from 110 to 113 degrees during that span.

“I would say Phoenicians, in general, know how to deal with heat,” Dan Quan, an emergency physician at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

Visitors, the elderly, immobile people and those without air conditioning “are the ones at higher risk,” Quan said.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; change in skin tone; dizziness; and cool and moist skin, the Arizona Department of Health Services listed online.

Symptoms of life-threatening heat stroke include a throbbing headache; no sweat; dry, hot skin; nausea and vomiting; high body temperature and loss of consciousness, Phoenix Fire Capt. Kenny Overton told KTAR News.

A lack of sweating in excessive heat is a sign that body’s mechanism to cool itself isn’t working.

“If you see (the obvious symptoms) happening to somebody, it’s imperative you call 911 immediately and do everything you can to cool the person until we arrive,” Overton said.

Quan said applying cold compresses or spritzes of water on the skin will help cool down an overheated person.

First responders see many cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke during this type of weather, Overton said.

“We like to say if you feel thirsty, you’re already behind the hydration curve. Avoid drinks with sugar, alcohol and caffeine,” he said.

Avoiding direct sun on the skin can reduce the body’s heat index by a significant amount, Quan said.

If you are going to be outdoors exerting yourself, Overton suggested planning those activities for the coolest part of the day and limiting the duration.

“Take frequent breaks,” he said. “And drink (water) before, during and after activities. A lot more than usual,” the fire department veteran said.

Other tips to stay well during extremely hot weather include:

  • Wearing light-colored clothing
  • Covering up arms and legs
  • Wearing a hat or other head protection
  • Slow down

A list of heat relief stations in the Valley – some are hydration stations, some are heat refuges (cooled indoor sites) – can be found at the county’s website.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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