May 24, 2024

Springfield-Greene County Health Dept. warns of health risks from power outages

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – With many residents without power, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department is reminding the community of the dangers of heat.

According to the National Weather Service, Springfield’s heat index is forecasted to reach as high as 102°F today and 106°F tomorrow. Heat advisories have been issued for both days. With a large segment of the community without power, many people could experience heat-related illness at home. In addition to the impact that high heat has on our health and the health of our pets, the lack of electricity also affects the safety of our perishable foods.

Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related illness and can lead to dehydration. Symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, tiredness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness or fainting, headache, nausea, or vomiting. A person with these symptoms should move to a cool spot, rest and drink cool water. If symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, they should seek medical attention.

Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature climbs to or above 104°F. It can be deadly. Call 911 immediately if a person has symptoms including a high body temperature, red, hot, or dry skin, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses are at highest risk.

To protect people against heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty; avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Avoid strenuous work or exercise outside during the hottest part of the day. If that is not practical, take frequent breaks and remember to drink plenty of water. This includes cleaning up after last night’s storm. If it is not blocking roads and driveways or posing some other kind of safety hazard, leave clean up to cooler parts of the day or for once you have power restored to your home.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle. Including pets.

When the National Weather Service issues heat advisories, some air-conditioned facilities are available as public cooling centers. These are a good option for those without shelter and those whose homes are not air-conditioned. A map of public cooling centers, public buildings with air conditioning and water-refill stations is available at health.springfieldmo.gov/heat.

If you have family members, friends, neighbors, or other acquaintances who are without power and air-conditioning, please consider offering shelter to them. Especially children, older adults, and those with chronic health conditions. If you have older neighbors who live alone, consider checking on them periodically to ensure that they are safe.

Pet owners have additional considerations during this heat advisory. Pet owners should also follow these tips to keep animals safe in the heat:

  • Do not leave a pet unattended in a hot car.
  • Always make sure pets have access to cool, clean, fresh water as well as adequate food and shelter.
  • Walk your dog in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. If you must walk mid-day, shorten the distance. And keep your dog in the grass as much as possible, as hot sidewalks can burn the pads of their feet.
  • Do not leave a dog outdoors unattended on a chain or tether. Long-term chaining during the summer can result in countless insect bites, dehydration, and heat stroke.
  • With the lack of air conditioning indoors due to power outages, it is important to monitor your pet for signs of overheating and ensure they have constant access to cool, fresh water.

If you see a child, pet, or unresponsive adult outdoors or in a closed, parked vehicle, immediately call 911.

In order to avoid foodborne illness, it is important that frozen and refrigerated foods be kept at appropriate temperatures. If you have an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator or freezer, use it to ensure that food is being stored at safe temperatures throughout the power outage (34 to 45ºF for the refrigerator; 0ºF or below for the freezer).

A full freezer should keep food safe for about two days if it is left closed. You can add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time. Refrigerated foods, however, may not be safe after about four to six hours. Any perishable food that has been above 45ºF for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture must be discarded. If it appears the power will be off for more than six hours, transfer perishable foods to an insulator cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 45ºF or below.

Foodborne illness can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms may last only 24 hours, or they may become severe and lead to hospitalization, or in extreme cases, death. If you experience these symptoms for more than 24 hours, please contact your healthcare provider. Foodborne illnesses can be more severe in young children, the elderly, and people with a compromised immune system.

For more information on staying safe in the heat, visit health.springfieldmo.gov/heat. More information on food safety during power outages can be found at health.springfieldmo.gov/2897/Food-Safety.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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