May 24, 2018

Beat the Heat

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is urging everyone to prepare for summer heat by staying cool, staying hydrated and staying informed.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – The heat and humidity of Missouri can affect everyone, but can be especially dangerous to small children, the elderly and the chronically ill.

Each year many Missourians suffer from heat related illnesses, some of which can result in death. In 2017, 19 Missourians died from heat related illness*.

“When temperatures rise, especially early in the season, it is important that we remain vigilant about the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). “We are mindful that 12 seniors died in a nursing home from the heat after Hurricane Irma. We encourage everyone to check on elderly family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated.”

The elderly and chronically ill are often more vulnerable to heat and humidity because they perspire less and are more likely to be taking medications that can impair the body’s response to heat. Williams urges Missourians to use the state’s toll-free abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-392-0210 to report any elderly or adults with disabilities suffering from the heat and needing assistance.

There are a number of steps individuals can take to stay cool during the summer season including:

  • Wear appropriate clothing—wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay Cool Indoors—stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible. Local cooling centers can be found on our website at
  • Stay Hydrated—drink plenty of fluids regardless of your activity level and don’t wait to until you are thirsty.  Avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages, these actually cause you to lose body fluids.
  • Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully—try to plan outdoor activity for morning or evening hours when the temperature is coolest.
  • Pace yourself—reduce exercise or physical activity during the hottest part of the day and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned place.
  • Wear Sunscreen—sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated.
  • Prepare your Home—change air conditioner filters, cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes or shades, and make sure you have portable fans if necessary.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat related illness and how treat them is also important.

“Symptoms related to heat stroke or heat exhaustion can be very serious,” said Williams. “Developing muscle cramping may be the first indication that you are developing a heat related illness. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke could save your life or that of a loved one.”

Signs of heat exhaustion may include muscle cramps; heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; and fainting or passing out.  If you think you or a loved one are experiencing heat exhaustion you should stop physical activity; move to a cool place—preferably air-conditioned—loosen clothing; and sip cool water. Seek medical attention immediately if you are throwing up, your symptoms get worse or symptoms last longer than one hour.

Signs of heat stroke may include high body temperature (103°F or higher); hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; or loss of consciousness.  If you think you or a loved one are experiencing heat stroke you should call 911 immediately.  Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Move the person to a cool place—preferably air-conditioned. Help lower the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath until medical personnel arrive. Do not give the person anything to drink.

For more information regarding heat related illness and prevention visit the DHSS website or the CDC.

About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.

*This number is preliminary.  2017 death records will not be final until July 2018.

For more information download “Beat The Heat” PDF by the CDC.