How to deal with dangerous heat

Jacksonville homeless shelter opens at 1:30 p.m. to offer escape from heat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the dangerous heat we could feel Friday, there is a health alert you need to be aware of. The Weather Authority forecasts the hottest day in six years -- a chance we may see triple digits, and it certainly will feel like it.

The people most at risk when the thermometer gets into the 90s are small children and elderly people.  It’s probably best they don’t go outside for extended periods of time today. Others at risk are those who work outside and the homeless.

"Heat index becomes very important. You add the pavement or the sidewalk to that, it's even warmer than that. You're talking about dangerous temperatures to the human body," said Penny Kievet, executive director of New Life Inn. "A lot of the folks who are on the street are already compromised," said Kievet.

Dr. Vhandana Bhide with Mayo Clinic had some tips for staying hydrated in this heat:

  • Have water with you at all times and fill your bottle as much as possible
  • Wear lightweight clothing, no dark colors
  • Don't drink sugary drinks
  • If you can, stay indoors where you're in the air conditioning
  • If you work outside or plan to do an outdoor project, take as many breaks as possible. Don't spend more than an hour outside between each break

The New Life Inn is hoping to help some of the most vulnerable people in Jacksonville during the heat by providing a place where they can go to feel welcome and get out of the sun.

Executive Director Penny Kievet took News4Jax on a tour of the facility, where the homeless can take showers, get a hot meal, relax or get some rest.

"We feed about 500 to 800 people here a day. They watch TV. We usually play something that is filled with hope," Kievet said. "As you can see, it's very cool in here. It’s very clean in here. That's very important to us. And it's important to our guests."

New Life Inn on West State Street opened at 1:30 p.m. on Friday -- two hours earlier than they normally do. They have made the decision to open early the rest of the summer.

Heat poses health concerns

As the temperature rises, anyone who can't get out of the sun needs to be careful. 

There's a thin line between heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Dr. Melissa Parsons of UF Health said people may not notice it at first because it's already hot out and one symptom can feel like a slight fever.

"Heat exhaustion is actually what comes first. Typically, patients have a core body temperature of around 101 to 104. So, kind of like a fever. But it's actually because of the outside temperature. They'll have a range of symptoms. Normally, patients complain of nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, headaches," Parsons said.

"When we really get into heatstroke symptoms, it's typically that they have a core body temperature of over 104. And they start to get altered mental status. So they can get confused, lethargic, not acting right, those sorts of things, because the heat can cause the proteins and enzymes in our body not to work correctly," Parsons said. 

For seniors, Parsons said, there's more of a danger because their bodies will have a tougher time getting back to normal and there's an increased risk of dehydration because of the medicines they take.

"Our elderly population, because of some of the medications that they're on, are going to be more dehydrated and more likely to not regulate their body temperature as well as the rest of us. So they are at increased risk for both heat exhaustion, heatstroke and just not doing as well this summer because of that," Parsons said. 

Kids love to have fun in the sun too, but Parsons said parents should make adjustments to the amount of time they spend outside when it's hot.

"As far as kids go, playing outside, they don't realize how hot they're getting most of the time. So parents, giving them breaks, bringing them into the AC, making sure they're cooling down regularly and that they're staying hydrated is going to be really important," Parsons said.

Parsons said the same rules apply for adults. 

As for hydration, experts advice to start drinking water before going out in the heat, and then continuing to take in fluids.

"I recommend eating fruit because a lot of people don't like water," personal trainer Freddie Nelson said.

Parsons also suggested several ways to stay hydrated:

  • Drink half your body weight in fluid ounces
  • Be careful with alcohol
  • Don't wear tight clothes because they can cause infections

Parsons also said using water bottles can help people keep track of how much water they're drinking and remind people to drink enough.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.