By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With most of the Delaware Valley dealing with dangerous and potentially deadly heat over the weekend, doctors say people need to take precaution to prevent heat-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention says more than 600 people die in the United States every year from the heat. The excessive heat is more than just uncomfortable.

Doctors are especially concerned because we’re facing a string of days when the temperature and humidity will soar. The best advice is to know the warning signs of a heat emergency.

An early morning workout at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before the dangerous heat kicks in is probably the only safe time to work out during the scorching heat wave.

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Being outside is dangerous. Doctors say people need to be aware of the warning signs of heat illnesses.

“You might start to get a headache, you might start to feel a little nauseous,” Dr. Tom Waters said. “Certainly if you’re feeling dizzy, those are all signs that you’re getting dehydrated or overheated and you may be in a set-up for a heat emergency.”

Heat-related illnesses can vary from mild dehydration to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or all the way to full-blown heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Heat stroke is less common but more dangerous than heat exhaustion. It occurs when your core body temperature goes above 104 degrees.

Doctors say the first line of defense is staying hydrated — with water being the best source — and try to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to the heat.

The American Red Cross also suggests moving people who exhibit signs of heat stroke into cooler areas and use cold, wet towels as a way to cool down a person’s body temperature.

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The Red Cross says people exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion should be moved to cooler places and immediately remove or loosen tight clothing. It says to spray them with water or apply wet towels to the skin and fan the person. Give them small amounts of cool water and have them drink it slowly.

Very young children and the elderly are the most susceptible to heat stress. Youngsters can’t adapt to the heat on their own and the elderly sometimes have medications that make it difficult for them to regulate body temperature.

“If you notice a loved one is not acting right, certainly if they’re acting confused or they’re just not themselves,” Waters said, “that’s a sign that they could be developing heat stroke and you need to definitely get them removed from the heat.”

Another warning sign to watch out for is if people aren’t sweating. Sweat is the way the body cools off.

Health officials say it’s especially important to check on the elderly who live alone.

Because of the dangerous heat, the Philadelphia Corporation For Aging is operating their heatline through Sunday. You can reach them at 215-765-9040.

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Stephanie Stahl