This story was produced by Fresnoland , a nonprofit news organization that partners with The Fresno Bee.
Fresno is facing a scorching heat wave, and daily highs on Wednesday and Saturday are forecast to reach 106 degrees.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning Tuesday morning which is expected to shift to a heat advisory by 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
Local medical experts are warning that extended periods of daily high temperatures over 90 degrees, let alone over 100 degrees, can be dangerous and can make it difficult for a person to regulate their body temperature.
“The longer the heat wave goes on, or the longer the temperature remains high, each successive day that people are exposed to this, their defenses wane,” said Dr. Jesus Rodriguez, a family medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente in Fresno.
Heatstroke, which is the most serious acute heat-related illness, can lead to death if not treated quickly, according to Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County. Heatstroke can be caused by overheating as a result of prolonged exposure to heat or overexertion in high heat.
“(Heatstroke) usually means the person has unstable vital signs,” Vohra said. “They need to go to the ICU, and have critical care performed right away.”
Less-severe heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat cramps, can also lead to emergency room visits.
Here are symptoms to look out for according to the Centers for Disease Control:
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, fast and weak pulse, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness, headache, or loss of consciousness.
Heatstroke symptoms include high body temperature, dizziness, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness, fast and strong pulse, and hot, red, dry or damp skin.
Heat cramps can appear as heavy sweating during exercise and muscle pain or spasms.
Heat rash symptoms include red clusters of small blisters, typically in the neck, chest, groin or elbow regions.
Dr. Rodriguez said that people with disabilities or preexisting conditions, people who work outdoors, children and the elderly are at a higher risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses.
What to do if you are experiencing heat-related symptoms
If you are experiencing mild symptoms, such as light headaches, mild dizziness, or tiredness, here are some tips from Rodriguez to cool yourself down:
If you are outside, get to a shaded area.
Avoid overexertion or exercising at the hottest parts of the day, if possible.
If you have access to water and a fan, wet your clothes down and stand in front of the fan.
Cool down by putting ice or a cold towel on your neck, armpits or groin regions. There is a lot of blood flow in these areas which can help you cool down more quickly.
Drink a lot of water.
Replenish your electrolytes with low-sugar drinks.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol if you are in the sun.
If you’re working outside, take regular breaks out of the sun.
Rodriguez stressed the importance of drinking water, adding that people who “start off the day a little dehydrated are already in danger.” People who live and work in air-conditioned areas should be drinking about 64 ounces of water per day, he said, while those who live and work in hot conditions should drink 8 to 12 ounces of water each hour they are in those conditions. People who are sweating profusely should also try to replace electrolytes.
Feeling confused, extremely dizzy, incoherent, disoriented or extremely nauseous, Rodriguez said, are signs to call 911.
“The more people know about these things, I think, the more people we can save,” he said.
Rodriguez said heat-related deaths are “totally preventable” if people know what to look out for, have access to cool or shady spaces, water and can take breaks if they are working outdoors.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a fan and having enough water,” he added.
Cooling centers in Fresno
The city of Fresno has four cooling centers that operate on days when temperatures are forecast to reach 105 or above.
FAX buses will transport people along regularly scheduled bus routes to and from the cooling centers for free on days when the cooling centers are open. Pets on leash are allowed at the cooling centers.
Location of the cooling centers:
Frank H. Ball Community Center, 760 Mayor Ave., 93706
Mosqueda Community Center, 4670 E. Butler Ave., 93702
Pinedale Community Center, 7170 N. San Pablo Ave., 93650
Ted C. Wills Community Center, 770 N. San Pablo Ave., 93728
This summer, with funding from the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, Fresnoland is taking a deeper dive into the toll heat takes on health. Stay tuned for more on how heat is impacting vulnerable communities and what can be done.