Kansas State University Professor Highlights the Dangers of Extreme Heat and Urges Midwesterners to Stay Vigilant

By Trish Svoboda

Residents of the Midwest are often familiar with the seasonal hazards of tornadoes, floods, hail, lightning, and wildfires during spring and summer. However, managing heat can pose a different challenge, according to Elaine Johannes, the Distinguished Professor of Community Health at Kansas State University and the Kansas Health Foundation.

The impacts of extreme heat can catch people off guard if they aren’t vigilant. Johannes pointed out that urban areas, where people reside, study, work, and socialize, often intensify heat-related issues due to heat-retaining surfaces like concrete, resulting in the formation of heat islands that intensify the already high temperatures.

Johannes explained that heat stress can result in various conditions like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rashes. Vulnerable groups, including babies, young children, and older adults, are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of heat stress. “There are also exertional heat issues,” Johannes said. “Exertional heat could affect a very young, vibrant person who is an athlete and works outside frequently, such as road workers or people who do agricultural work… When our body is over-stressed by trying to cool itself down, and the extreme heat doesn’t allow us to cool down, our body’s mechanism gets over-heated inside.”

Johannes warns Kansans to remain alert for warning signs, especially when outdoors alone. Early indicators like dizziness should not be ignored, as in severe instances, vital organs may start to shut down or blood clotting may occur.

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