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Staying safe in the sun

MDHHS officials advise healthy practices with rising temps

A pair of locals spend time at McCarty’s Cove beach in Marquette, soaking in the sun rays Monday morning. As the temperatures are expected to rise this week, health officials urge Michiganders to take extra precautions to avoid sun-related illness such as heatstroke, sunburn, heat exhaustion and sun poisoning. Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of fluids and limiting sun exposure is important to maintain health. (Journal photo by Jackie Jahfetson)

MARQUETTE — Sunny summer temperatures are days spent at the beach, soaking up too much Vitamin D and that’s why the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recommending all Michiganders to stay cool during the scorching heat.

During the Fourth of July weekend, MDHHS reviewed that 120 emergency department visits were due to heat exhaustion, heatstroke, sunburn and sun poisoning. With the Marquette weather forecast showing another heatwave on the rise this week, officials are anticipating more emergency department visits for heat-related illness.

Staying cool while sunbathing is important, MDHHS Public Information Officer Lynn Sutfin said.

“They can lead to heat illnesses. 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. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down,” Sutfin said, adding, “Heat illnesses can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. About 600 people die each year in the United States due to heat-related illness.”

To prevent sun-related illness, officials advise resident to drink more fluids and avoid liquids with large amounts of sugar or alcohol, reduce outdoor activities to when it is coolest in the morning and evening, spend time indoors with air conditioning, wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing and wear sunscreen for sunburn affects a body’s ability to cool down.

Severe sunburn, also known as sun poisoning, is a sun-related illness, that has symptoms of blisters, rash, nausea, fever and chills, headache and dizziness, Sutfin said. Heat-related illnesses can be heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Heatstroke is a medical condition caused by the body overheating. Signs of heatstroke include high body temperature; hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion and losing consciousness, she added. Heatstroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and if not treated promptly, it can result in death.

“We urge all Michiganders to enjoy being outdoors, but to take precautions during these hotter temperatures by taking frequent breaks in cooler, air-conditioned areas and to drink more fluids, particularly water,” Sutfin said.

For those without access to air conditioning, officials advise residents to text or call Michigan 211 or contact their local health department to find out if there is a cooling center nearby. Even spending time at an air-conditioned store, shopping mall or any other public building — while following the COVID-19 precautions including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet — for a few hours can reduce heat-related illness.

“It’s important Michiganders stay hydrated and out of the sun as much possible to avoid serious health complications during this hot weather,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, said in a press release. “Young children, older adults and those who are have medical conditions are at increased risk for heat-related illness, so be sure to check frequently on them and others in your community who may need additional assistance.”

Officials remind residents to never leave children or pets alone in a car even with the windows cracked. Temperatures inside a car may be twice the outside temperature, and a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s and are more susceptible to heatstroke.

To learn more about how to stay safe in the sun, visit michigan.gov and search “MDHHS Heat Awareness and Safety Fact Sheet.”

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