Numerous deaths nationwide can be attributed to the excessive heat that has blanketed the country. Here in Meridian, the heat index is getting higher than 100 degrees.
Extreme heat can cause an increased health risk, especially for younger children and older adults. Their bodies cannot cool as efficiently as a healthy adult.
"Obesity can play a role, decreasing their body surface area and their ability to dissipate heat," said Dr. James Snyder, an emergency room physician at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian. "Plus, many of the medications they may be on may interfere with the body's ability to dissipate heat in the normal fashion."
Human bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation and by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, but sweating by itself does nothing to cool the body. The water must be removed by evaporation, a process that is slowed by high humidity.
"On these very high-temperature, high-humidity days, the main thing to do is stay out of the heat if you can. If you can't, you have to stay very hydrated," Snyder said.
The heat index is a measure of how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity.
The National Weather Service will issue a heat advisory for an area when the heat index is expected to rise above 105 degrees for at least two consecutive days.
"Even small amounts of dehydration can subsequently impair your own ability to regulate heat and you will start to become affected by the heat," said Snyder.
To beat the heat, make sure you drink plenty of water, dress appropriately, and find an air conditioned place to relax.
Watch children closely for signs of overheating and make sure to check on elderly relatives and neighbors.