We've gone through a stretch of hot weather, and with August upon us, we're bound to see more hot temperatures.

Each year many Missourians suffer from heat-related illnesses, with some cases resulting in death. During prolonged periods of high temperatures, using air conditioning – either at home or by seeking shelter in a local cooling center is the best preventive measure.

Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat this might not be enough. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses can help you stay safe when enjoying nature.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness and weakness, dizziness or fainting, headache, nausea or vomiting.

To help prevent heat-related illness when either working outside or spending time outdoors with the family, follow these safety tips:

  • Visit during the coolest time of the day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful rays. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids.
  • Increase your fluid intake – regardless of activity level. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks containing caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because they can cause you to lose more fluid. Avoid very cold beverages as they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade.
  • Ask your doctor whether medications you take affect your body’s response to heat.
  • Remain alert for the signs of heat-related illness. Report heat related symptoms immediately.

Goosebumps and other bodily reactions, explained