Experts Warn of Heat-Related Illness Risk

Published 2:03 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

As summer hits its peak, scorching temperatures across the United States serve as a reminder that July is the hottest month of the year for the whole country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the warmest day for every location in the lower 48 states typically falls on July 26. With scorching temperatures already affecting Alabama and the southern regions, experts are urging people to take heat-related illnesses seriously and adopt appropriate precautions.

Elliot Jones, the Director of Crenshaw County Emergency Management Agency, emphasizes the significance of recognizing the dangers of heat-related illnesses. Heat stroke, the most severe heat-related condition, can be fatal if not treated promptly Jones explained.

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“I cannot stress enough the importance of taking heat-related illnesses seriously,” Jones said. “Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can have life-threatening consequences. It’s crucial to stay hydrated, take frequent breaks in cool areas, and watch for warning signs such as dizziness, nausea and cramps. Remember, prevention is key, and taking precautions when dealing with extreme heat can save lives.”

Tamara Warren, an urban health and nutrition specialist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, emphasizes the importance of sun safety, particularly during the summer months.

“While sunlight provides essential benefits such as vitamin D, overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to heat stress-related illnesses and skin cancers,” Warren said  “Heat-related illnesses include heat strokes, exhaustion, cramps, sunburns and heat rashes.”

Warren also noted that these illnesses are preventable with proper sun protection measures.

For individuals who work outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines for sun safety. These include minimizing sun exposure by scheduling outdoor tasks during cooler parts of the day, wearing protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using sunglasses that provide 100% protection from UV rays, applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, creating shade with tents or shelters, and staying hydrated by drinking water while avoiding alcohol or sugary drinks.

Similar protection protocols apply to outdoor recreational activities. It is recommended to plan recreational events before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to avoid the strongest UV rays. Even on cloudy or cool days, UV rays can still affect individuals, as they can reflect off surfaces like water, cement and sand. Dressing appropriately and using sunscreen are crucial in preventing heat stress-related illnesses.

For more information on sun safety, the Extension Brief, “Sun Safety Tips,” and the Alabama Extension Emergency Handbook’s section on “Excessive Heat” provide detailed guidelines and can be accessed at The CDC also offers additional resources for comprehensive information.