by Amy Merrill
Weather forecasters, sportsmen and gardeners have been keeping close watch on the forecast but perhaps none more than local health officials, as triple-digit temperatures this week become the norm rather than the exception.
Four heat-related deaths have been reported in Idaho in five years, but none since 2009. This week's string of 100 degree-plus temperatures has health officials concerned, particularly for the elderly, disabled or very young.
Tom Shanahan, spokesman for Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare, tells Citydesk that even heat in the 90s can be deadly.
“Even when you get in the high 90s, fans do not help that much,” said Shanahan. “Take a shower or a bath to cool down.”
Existing health concerns such as cardiovascular or kidney disease and high blood pressure can be exacerbated by the heat. Shanahan added that certain medications may not allow the body to cool the same way a healthy person would. In addition, there is a heightened risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Shanahan noted that heat-related deaths in Idaho have included an individual lost in Idaho’s desert and another locked in a car. Two more were caused by exertion due to the heat.
He also urged citizens to be proactive in helping neighbors during the heat wave.
“Help other people deal with the heat,” said Shanahan. “Make plans during the heat wave to check on neighbors. A lot of times, they won’t reach out for help.”
Heat-related illness can manifest with red, hot or really dry skin, a rapid or strong pulse or a throbbing headache. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recommends planning activities for the early morning or late evening, and suggests those without air conditioning seek solace in malls or public libraries during the day.