We love the summer months here in Illinois, but those same high summer temperatures we look forward to can cause heat-related illnesses for many Illinoisans. Summer is a time for peak electricity usage from air conditioners, which can mean high electricity bills and a greater risk of blackouts.
The good news is that there are many ways that you can prepare ahead of time for this possibility, and AARP Illinois wants to make sure you have all the resources you need to keep yourself, your family and your neighbors safe in the event of electricity blackouts this summer.
AARP Illinois Director Phillipe Largent urged residents to take heat-related hazards seriously and to be vigilant in checking on older residents, neighbors, and the medically vulnerable during the summer months.
"During the summer, it is especially important that we look out for our neighbors, and especially those with chronic medical conditions,” said Largent. “That phone call, that visit or offer of help, could save a life. It is so important that Illinoisans take the appropriate steps to help keep themselves, and those they care for, safe this summer.”
Illinoisans can reduce electricity use by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher; turning off lights and pool pumps; avoiding use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and dryers; and turning off or unplugging unused electric appliances.
Steps to staying safe during extreme heat:
- Follow tips from the CDC on how to prevent heat-related illness.
- Exposure to extreme heat can create serious health problems, resulting in a condition known as heatstroke. Usually the elderly, the very young, those with other health conditions, and those without access to air conditioning or a source for hydration are most severely affected by heat.
Thank According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, symptoms of heat exposure complications may include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Weak, but rapid pulse
According to the IDPH, here's how to help a person showing severe symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Get the victim out of the sun and heat.
- Call for emergency medical services.
- Immediately begin cooling the person with cool/cold water and fanning.
Staying in an air-conditioned area, either at home or in a public place such as a mall, library or recreation center, is the most effective way to combat heat. If air conditioning is not available:
- Pull the shades over the windows and use cross-ventilation and fans to cool rooms.
- Take a cool shower or bath
- Limit the use of stoves and ovens.
The IDPH also says: Children are at higher risk of becoming dehydrated. Children should be encouraged to drink fluids frequently, especially water, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
Check on children often, especially if they are outside in high temperatures.
Other heat precautions suggested by the IDPH include:
- Never leave people or pets in a closed, parked vehicle during hot weather, even for a short time.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Hydrate before going out into the heat.
- Plan strenuous outdoor activity for early morning or evening when temperatures may be lower.
- Take frequent breaks when working outside.
- Wear sun block, hats, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
- Dress infants in the same manner you would dress yourself.
- Avoid heavy clothing and blankets in hot weather. Ensure infants are well hydrated. Breast or bottle feed more often when in hot environments.
- Check frequently on the elderly and those who are ill or may need help.
The IDPH advises to check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat when taking prescription drugs, especially diuretics, antibiotics, or antihistamines.
- Keep in mind that heavy sweating can remove salt and minerals from your body. Talk to your doctor about how to safely replace salt and minerals lost through sweating.
- Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
- Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
- Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
Keep in mind that people with chronic medical conditions are more vulnerable to extreme heat. Here's why:
- They may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature.
- They may be taking medications that can make the effect of extreme heat worse.
- Conditions like heart disease, mental illness, poor blood circulation, and obesity are risk factors for heat-related illness. (Individuals who are overweight or obese tend to retain more body heat.)
Stay Alert to Cooling Centers in Your Area
Local public health agencies are an important resource. Call 2-1-1 for information in your areas. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. Here is a list of Chicago-area cooling centers.
Also, the American Red Cross maintains a list of open shelters on the Red Cross website. For more information from the Red Cross, please call 1-800-733-2767.