Life in Nebraska is heating up.
Heat index values are expected to peak in the triple digits Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, forecasters said.
The temperatures in the area are expected to feel like they are in the 100- to 105-degree range during this time, especially near and south of Interstate 80.
Though few instances of heat-related illnesses have been reported in the CHI Health system or at the Nebraska Medical Center in the past few days, emergency departments are expecting to begin seeing cases as the heat worsens, said CHI Health spokeswoman Kathy Sarantos Niver.
People need to try to cool down if they start feeling the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which include headaches, fatigue, blurry vision, nausea and vomiting, said Jessica Summers, a trauma, critical care and burn surgeon at Nebraska Medicine. A person with these symptoms should find a cool place to lie down, loosen or remove tight-fitting clothing, drink water and use damp cloths to lower the body’s temperature, she said.
Heat exhaustion can progress into heatstroke, which can be deadly. People with heatstroke often have their heat-related symptoms worsen, can be disoriented or confused and have a decrease in their sweating. When people reach this stage, they need medical help, Summers said.
“They’re no longer able to cool their body down,” she said. “The skin becomes more dry and hot.”
If people have severe symptoms after being in the heat, or symptoms continue after cooling down awhile, they should also seek medical attention, she said.
“I think people don’t often think they can die from the heat, but your temperature can rise so high your body starts shutting down,” she said.
Those who need to be outside should drink water every 20 to 30 minutes and take frequent breaks in cooler places, Summers said.
Also, extra care should be taken with children and the elderly, who are more susceptible to heat-related issues, she said.
People in houses without air conditioning should go to an enclosed shopping mall or other public place to take advantage of the cool air, Summers said.
Cooling centers are open in several of the Salvation Army’s buildings after two consecutive days in the 90s or above, said spokeswoman Susan Eustice.
The centers are now open indefinitely as temperatures soar, and have been available on and off since early June. Visitors to the centers can enjoy the air conditioning and get bottled water in common spaces.
The hope is that people who need the stations can call ahead and plan to use them during their day-to-day activities.
“We get heat exhaustion now and again, but we never want it to get to that point,” Eustice said.
The organization also provided fans to more than a thousand households last summer, she said.
The heat is expected to hit the southeastern part of Nebraska particularly hard. The weather service issued a heat advisory from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday for six Nebraska counties, including those in which Beatrice, Auburn and Falls City are located. Northwest Missouri is also included.
Hot weather tips
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reminding eastern Nebraska and southwest Iowa residents about steps they should take to protect their health during extreme heat.
People suffering from heat stress:
» May experience heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast or weak pulse; and nausea or vomiting
» Will show signs of muscle cramps, heat rash, fainting or near-fainting spells, and a pulse or heart rate greater than 100.
» Should be moved to a cooler location to lie down. Apply cool, wet cloths to the body, especially to the head, neck, armpits and upper legs near the groin area, where a combined 70 percent of body heat can be lost; have the person sip water.
Signs of the most severe heat-related illness, heatstroke, include:
» A body temperature above 103 degrees F; hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; and an altered mental state that can range from confusion and agitation to unconsciousness. Call 911 immediately and take steps to cool down the person.
To help prevent heat-related illness:
» Spend time in locations with air-conditioning when possible.
» Drink plenty of fluids such as water and diluted sport electrolyte drinks (one part sport drink to two parts water).
» Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
» Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.