July 21, 2011 -- As record temperatures continue to bake the country's midsection, heat-related hospital visits are on the rise.
Excessive heat warnings are in effect for a large swath the central United States, according to the National Weather Service. And the scorching temperatures are expected to linger for the next couple weeks.
Central air conditioning and portable air conditioners can get expensive, so what can you do to avoid the heat? Can you recognize the signs of heat exhaustion? And would you know what to do if someone started to show symptoms of it?
Dr. William P. Bozeman, an associate professor of emergency medicine and the emergency services director at Wake Forest University, shared some tips with ABC News that will help you keep cool and recognize the signs of heat overexposure, and the steps to take if you experience those symptoms or see them in someone else. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has a list of protective and first aid measures for heat-induced illnesses.
"Amazingly, the human race survived for several million years prior to the advent of air conditioning," Bozeman told ABC News.
He cautioned that it is important to be aware of the temperature. Temperatures in the 90s and higher are dangerous, and become more dangerous the higher they go and the longer they last. The very young and the very old are at the highest risk, as their weight and age can impair their ability to handle high temperatures.
12 Tips for Staying Cool This Summer
Be aware of the heat. Pay attention to it and modify your activities appropriately.
Pay attention to your hydration status and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Try to stay in relatively cool areas, even when outside. Many public places, such as libraries, shopping malls and movie theatres, are air conditioned.
Avoid hot, enclosed places, such as cars. Never leave children unattended in a car parked in the sun.
Use a fan, if available.
Stay on the lowest floor of your building.
Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals.
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing.
Cover windows that receive a significant amount of sun with drapes or shades to help keep your house cool.
Weather stripping and proper insulation will keep cool air inside your home.
Cool beverages are good for cooling down the body, while alcoholic drinks can impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature.
8 Signs of Heat Overexposure
Heavy sweating -- though if heat stroke sets in, the body can no longer compensate and stops sweating.
Feeling tired and weak.
Altered mental status (confusion or disorientation).
Becoming semi-conscious or passing out.
Nausea or vomiting.
6 First Steps to Take After Recognizing Heat-Induced Illness
Get the person out of the sun and into a cool area. An air-conditioned area is ideal, but moving someone into the shade will also help.
Apply water to help the person cool off.
Apply ice to the neck or armpits, where large blood vessels are close to the surface.
Remove any heavy clothing.
Immerse the body in cool water, either at a swimming pool or in a bathtub.