Doctors, MPCA advise caution during heat wave

Robyn Repya

The latest heat wave has made many outdoor activities barely tolerable, prompting many Twin Cities residents to beat the heat in the comforts of air conditioning.

The most recent string of hot air mixed with certain pollutants prompted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an air advisory warning for the metro area effective until today. The agency is urging people to take extra precautions when participating in strenuous activity outdoors.

“This summer, for the first time since the 1970s, the ozone level is up in the Twin Cities,” said Rebecca Helgesen, MPCA public information officer. “We have dodged the bullet so far.”

The air quality index is expected to reach 114 during the advisory, a level that indicates unhealthy amounts of ozone for people with respiratory problems or people engaged in rigorous activities outdoors. An AQI of 50 is considered good, according to the MPCA.

The combination of stagnant heat and air pollutants – such as nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds – determines the AQI.

University physician B.J. Anderson said he recommends extra precautions for those who exercise during the advisory.

“It’s best to exercise either early in the morning or late in the evening,” he said.

In addition to drinking plenty of water – at least six to eight glasses per day – Anderson said it’s important the body maintain its electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium and potassium.

He said urine clarity is a sure measure of adequate hydration.

Micheal Reed, a local retail manager and avid runner, concurred. “As long as my pee is clear, I know I’ve consumed enough water,” he said.

Reed said he did alter his regular exercise regimen, however, taking mid-run breaks and bringing water along.

Steve Sterner, assistant chief of emergency medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center, said bodily signals during extreme heat should not be ignored.

Muscle pain, weakness and nausea are signs of heat exhaustion, Sterner said, adding that heat stroke could occur if those symptoms go unaddressed. “If the body’s temperature elevates even 3 degrees above 98, systems begin to stop functioning normally,” he said.

Sterner said it is imperative to seek shade if signs of heat exhaustion are prevalent. If symptoms persist, Sterner recommends finding air conditioning, a pool or even a hose to cool down.

He also said HCMC has treated an extra 20 to 30 patients per day during the heat wave.

Kim Kelly, manager of Running Room in Uptown, suggests people dress appropriately for the heat. “Cotton will trap the body’s heat; a fabric like Coolmax takes moisture away from the skin, allowing the body to cool,” she said.

Kelly also recommended limiting running to shorter distances and taking breaks for water every 10 to 15 minutes.

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