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How to be safe, stay cool as weekend heat wave hits Chicago

Crowded North Avenue Beach on Memorial Day. | Sun-Times file photo

Public health officials are warning Chicago area residents to take precautions during the heat wave that is set to smother the region over the weekend.

An excessive heat warning is in effect from Saturday morning through Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 90s on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and the humidity could bring the heat index up to 105 during the afternoon hours.

The Cook County Health and Hospitals System is urging area residents to take steps to avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

“When we sweat in high heat and humidity, evaporation slows and the body has to work harder to maintain a normal temperature,” CCHHS Emergency Department physician Dr. Tarlan Hedayati said in a statement. “Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention.”

Early signs of heat exhaustion include thirst, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headache, fatigue, and a cold and clammy feeling while still sweating, according to health officials.

If heat exhaustion is not addressed, it can progress to heat stroke, which can cause hot and flushed skin without sweating, confusion, seizures, the inability to walk in a straight line, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and potential loss of consciousness.

Some basic precautions include avoiding overexertion or strenuous outdoor activities; wearing lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing; and staying hydrated by drinking “plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids,” according to hospital officials.

CCHS also encourages people to check on elderly friends or relatives who live alone and to take advantage of cooling centers, public pools and air-conditioned businesses to get out of the heat. Anyone who is unable to get to air conditioning can take frequent showers or baths to stay cool.

Chicago residents can call 311 for information about the city’s cooling centers or to request a well-being check for friends or family.

The American Red Cross is also warning people against leaving children or pets in vehicles in the heat, as interior temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees in a short period of time.

The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control also issued some pet safety tips for the hot weather. Dogs should be provided with cool water and shade and monitored while outdoors. Owners should also try to walk their dogs on grass, dirt or gravel whenever possible, as asphalt and pavement absorb more heat and could hurt dogs’ paw pads.