'Hot and muggy': How to stay safe as heat spell bakes the suburbs for another day
Dangerously high temperatures in the Chicago area are expected to stick around through Friday, combining with oppressive humidity to push heat index values into the triple digits before a weekend cool-down.
The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories and excessive heat warnings for much of the region through 9 p.m. Friday. Forecasters say hot and humid conditions should linger throughout the day, with afternoon heat indexes reaching 102 to 112 degrees.
"There's still a lot of moisture out there, so it feels hot and muggy," said Jake Petr, a meteorologist in the weather service's Romeoville office. "It's still important to take any of the precautions for avoiding heat-related illness."
Doctors warn that the heat and stifling humidity can be dangerous and urged people to stay hydrated, check on their elderly neighbors, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. People 65 years of age and older, children under 5 and the medically fragile are most at risk for heat-related illness, health experts say.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, and weakness. People could experience headaches or dizziness, and their skin might feel cold and clammy.
"Heat stroke is where you need to call 911," said Dr. Katie Mahan, a Duly Health and Care physician specializing in internal medicine and pediatrics.
Heat stroke is a more serious condition when the body's heat-regulating mechanisms break down. The warning signs include a quick, strong pulse, high body temperature (103 degrees or above) and disorientation.
"They could also have the headache and dizziness, but they would start to become confused," Mahan said. "And then their skin, instead of feeling cold and clammy, actually gets really dry and really hot, and so it means they're unable to get rid of that heat."
As temperatures climbed into the 90s Thursday and suburbanites kept cool at swimming pools, bicycled shirtless or ducked into air-conditioned libraries, meteorologists warned residents to limit outdoor activities during the heat spell. The heat index -- a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is factored in with the air temperature -- hit 98 degrees Thursday in Aurora.
"The dew point temperature is really important for our assessment of the heat index," Petr said. "And where those values are getting into kind of the mid-70s is where it really helps the heat index jump up."
The American Red Cross reminded those who work outside to wear loose-fitting, breathable, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors that absorb the sun's rays. Wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Drink plenty of fluids.
"You need to probably drink about eight ounces of water every 20 to 30 minutes or so to combat the loss of fluids you have with the heat," Mahan said.
If you do develop heat exhaustion, move into a cooler area, either an air-conditioned place or some shade, as well as drink water and try to rest to prevent heat stroke.
"Help each other during this time," Mahan added. "If anybody looks like they're in trouble or distressed, lend a hand."
There's a chance thunderstorms may develop Thursday night and again Friday in the late afternoon or early evening.
"There is still a possibility that showers and storms could at least help alleviate some of the heat," Petr said.
Saturday and Sunday forecasts call for lower temperatures, in the mid-80s.