Heat index values exceeded the 100-degree mark this past week in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County, according to the National Weather Service. Though predicted thunderstorms are expected to bring some relief from the oppressive heat to the Delta area, summer has officially arrived and eventually the temperatures again will rise to dangerous levels.

Heat index values exceeded the 100-degree mark this past week in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County, according to the National Weather Service. Though predicted thunderstorms are expected to bring some relief from the oppressive heat to the Delta area, summer has officially arrived and eventually the temperatures again will rise to dangerous levels.

The Arkansas Department of Health has issued some safety tips regarding how to recognize heat-related illnesses and how to avoid their dangerous consequences.

ADH says there is an average of 400 heat-related deaths in the U.S. each year. In 2011, 17 Arkansans died due to complications from heat-related illnesses.

The ADH reports that the elderly with health problems and very young children are the most vulnerable. However, extreme heat can affect anyone – even strong, healthy athletes. The human body is primarily cooled by eliminating heat through the skin by perspiration with evaporation. When the heat gain is higher than what the body can eliminate, the natural defense system fails and heat-related illnesses can develop.

The following heat disorders are progressive and should be attended to immediately.

•Heat cramps is prolonged muscular pain caused by a severe loss of salt as the result of heavy sweating. Treatment includes, getting to a cooler place, resting in a comfortable position, lightly stretching muscles, and drinking water every 15 minutes.

•Heat exhaustion is a condition marked by weakness, nausea, dizziness and profuse sweating. It is usually the result of physical exertion in a hot environment. Blood flow to skin increases while the blood flow to vital organs declines. Heat exhaustion can cause mild shock. If not treated, the condition can worsen and result in heat stroke.

When heat exhaustion occurs, get the person to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool wet cloths; if conscious, give cool water to drink about every 15 minutes; rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in conditions.

•Heat stroke or sunstroke is a life-threatening condition. Sweating stops and the body temperature rises sharply. Brain damage and death can occur if the body is not cooled quickly. If you suspect heatstroke, call 911 immediately and move the person to a cooler place immediately. Help is needed fast. Ice, a cold bath and wet sheets are recommended until medical help arrives.

If you participate in any strenuous activity during the summer months, drink plenty of water and fluid, schedule the heaviest activities during the coolest time of the day and monitor how you feel. If you can’t keep your usual pace, slow down.

Elderly people should avoid staying cooped up indoors without an air-conditioner for prolonged periods of time.

For absolutely no reason ever leave a child or pet unattended in closed vehicle.

A heat wave is defined as a period of unusually hot weather combined with high humidity. The heat index is the temperature in Fahrenheit degrees indicating how hot it feels when the relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.

For additional information, check out the ADH’s website at www.healthyarkansas.com.