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Is it heat exhaustion or heat stroke? And how to stay safe and out of the hospital during sizzling temps

Excessive heat warnings have been issued across our region. And we all know that exposure to extreme heat outdoors, or the inability to cool down indoors, can cause serious life-threatening health problems. But what precautions should we take?

Click here to read the St. Joseph County Health Department advisory that offers precautions to prevent heat-related illness and injury.

We caught up with Linda Mansfield, MD, Sports Medicine Physician, Beacon Bone & Joint Specialists, who described how to tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke and offered additional ways to stay safe during these sizzling temperatures.

What are signs of heat exhaustion?
The signs of heat exhaustion are extreme fatigue and the inability to continue exercise. At the same time, your core body temperature will reach between 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

What are the signs of heat stroke? When should you seek immediate medical attention?
Signs of heat stroke are when your core temperature is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit and you are experiencing central nervous system dysfunction, including mental status changes, decreased level of consciousness, disorientation, emotional instability and confusion. When these happen in tandem, please seek medical assistance immediately. Click here to find more information about our Beacon emergency locations.

Who is especially susceptible to heat-related illnesses?
The elderly and very young are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses because of their decreased ability to regulate their body temperature.

What tips do you have for people considering exercising or working outdoors during the next few days of extreme heat?

  • Consider moving workouts to an indoor facility/gym where temperature is controlled;
  • If exercising outside move the workout time to early morning when the radiant heat (sun) is not as much of a factor;
  • Stay well hydrated and drink extra water after workouts to make up for fluids lost through sweating during the workout;
  • If you have not been training outside in the heat, this is NOT a good time to start an outdoor fitness program due to lack of acclimatization; and
  • Do not do workouts wearing a lot of equipment during this time of extreme heat.

Find a cooling station near you

Cooling stations are now open in both St. Joseph and Elkhart counties. In addition to local libraries, here are the dates and times the City of South Bend’s community centers are open:

  • Charles Black Community Center (3419 W. Washington St.): 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday
  • Howard Park Event Center (604 E. Jefferson Blvd.): 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center (1522 W. Linden Ave.): 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 am. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • O’Brien Fitness Center (321 E. Walter St.): 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Pinhook Community Center (2801 Riverside Dr.): Hours are typically by appointment, but the building is usually staffed by 8 a.m.

In Elkhart County, the Elkhart County Fire Department has announced a cooling station in operation from noon to 7 p.m. today and Wednesday at Pierre Moran Park Pavilion (201 W. Lusher Ave.) in Elkhart. The Elkhart Public Library (300 S. 2nd St.) is also operating as a cooling station this week. The City of Goshen has designated the Goshen Public Library (601 S. Purl St.), as a cooling center from 1 to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

About Heidi Prescott

Passionate about writing her whole life, Heidi Prescott joined Beacon Health System in 2015 and currently serves as Director of Communications. A former newspaper journalist who has experience in TV, radio, magazines and social media, Heidi loves storytelling, photography and spending time in nature.