Take Caution During Periods of Intense Heat

HOLYOKE — Government data indicates that more people die in heat-related weather events than in other types of extreme weather events, and this summer’s intensive heat waves have brought some of the hottest days ever recorded on Earth.

“Increased temperatures can affect the impact of medications,” said Dr. Negar Beheshti, chief medical officer for MiraVista Behavioral Health Center in Holyoke and its sister hospital, Devens-based TaraVista Behavioral Health Center. “It is important for anyone on medications, including those which may be prescribed for a mental-health diagnosis, to talk with their healthcare provider about how extreme temperatures and exposure to sun may change how they feel and cause certain side effects, and what they can do during periods of increasingly hot weather to be safe.”

A board-certified psychiatrist for adults, children, and adolescents, Beheshti noted that heat-related complications have been found to be contributing factors in deaths where alcohol poisoning and drug overdose are the underlying causes.

“People are often unaware of the threat in body temperature from heat exposure until it is too late,” she said. “However, heat-related illnesses are considered preventable through education and awareness both on the personal and community level. Staying out of direct sunlight, drinking water regularly even when not thirsty, and being aware of one’s mental-health state — and getting help if needed for oneself or another — are all important preventive measures.”

More than 59 million people in the U.S. are currently under active National Weather Service extreme heat advisories, watches, and warnings, with many states experiencing a heat index well into the 100s.

The National Weather Service defines the heat index as a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with actual air temperature. The index between 90 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit comes with the warning classification of “extreme caution” as heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion are “possible” with prolonged exposure or activity.

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for avoiding heat-related illnesses, especially during periods of extreme heat, include eating regular meals; avoiding strenuous activity, especially during the heat of the day; taking cool showers; and calling 911 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke, which include a body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, a fast and strong pulse, and confusion.

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