Health experts are urging Minnesotans to take precautions to keep themselves cool as a heat wave descends into the state today through Thursday.
Minnesotans aren’t necessarily as good at staying safe in extreme heat as they are during winter blizzards and polar vortexes, said Teddie Potter, a nursing professor at the University of Minnesota. That’s because Minnesotans aren’t as used to sustained extreme heat the same way people from Arizona or Nevada are, she said.
“We aren’t educated or knowledgeable about how to stay safe,” Potter said. “So, we tend to just try to power through and act the way we always have.”
Temperatures in the Twin Cities are expected to reach the mid- to high-90s through Thursday, with temps in the low 90s Friday. The National Weather Service said the Twin Cities metro area and south-central Minnesota are at highest risk for excessive heat this week. Temperatures Thursday could reach 98 degrees Fahrenheit in the Twin Cities and 100 degrees in Mankato.
The heat index, which is a measurement of how hot it feels outside when the humidity is factored in with the air temperature, is expected to reach the mid- to high-90s in the Twin Cities through Wednesday, hitting a high of 101 degrees Fahrenheit Thursday. It’s expected to hit 100 degrees in Albert Lea and 107 degrees in Mankato Thursday.
“Hot overnight temperatures could elevate the heat risk, with little cooling relief overnight,” according to the weather service website. “Excessive heat this week will be hazardous to everyone, but especially vulnerable populations.”
Potter urges people to take safety precautions whenever the heat index is 93 or above.
What are some steps people can take to protect themselves this week? Sahan Journal provides some advice from experts below.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion.
When it gets very hot, people exposed to heat will experience a faster heart beat and dilated blood vessels. Signs of heat exhaustion include a fast heart rate, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, fatigue, headache, and cold and clammy skin. Fainting is also an indicator.
Anyone who appears in this condition should be immediately escorted out of the sun to a shaded or cool area, and encouraged to take small sips of water. Avoid gulping water. Place a wet rag or cloth on their neck or forehead to cool them off.
Know the signs of heat stroke.
If heat exhaustion isn’t treated, heat stroke can follow and cause permanent physical and cognitive damage. People experiencing heat stroke, which occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature, will likely not realize it because they’re not thinking clearly.
“Your rational self is not saying, ‘I better get in a cool place, or I better drink more fluids right now,’” Potter said. “You do not make those judgments. You’re beyond that.”
Signs of heat stroke include fainting, a throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, a rapid and strong pulse, and hot, red, dry or damp skin.
The National Weather Service recommends calling 911 or getting someone to a hospital immediately when they suffer heat stroke.
“Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency,” the weather service said. “Delay can be fatal.”
The weather service recommends moving the victim to a cooler area, preferably air conditioned, and using cool wet clothes or baths to lower their body temperature.
What should I do to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
Hassan Ibrahim, a registered nurse and clinician at Axis Medical Center in Minneapolis, urges people to drink lots of water, refrain from exercising outside during the day, and to avoid drinking beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol that can cause dehydration.
People should also avoid wearing heavy and tight clothing. Muslim women who want to abide by their faith practices can substitute a loose fitting headscarf and loose-fit clothing for a full hijab in public, he added. They can also try to stay home and refrain from wearing religious clothing in private.
Potter added that people should wear lighter colors that reflect the sun rays instead of darker colors like dark blue or black.
What if I don’t have air conditioning in my home?
Taking frequent cold baths or showers can help you cool off. If you live in a multi-story home, sleeping on the ground floor or basement will be cooler than sleeping upstairs. People in apartments can talk to their landlords and neighbors about sleeping in the laundry room or community room in the basement if their complex has one, Potter said.
Potter also recommends that people who don’t have air conditioning shut their windows during the day.
Potter and Hassan both encouraged people to avoid cooking or using their ovens during the hottest part of the day between late morning and late afternoon, or to try to grill meals outside to avoid heating up their homes.
The National Weather Service also recommends checking on friends, family, and neighbors during periods of extended heat.
What if my car doesn’t have air conditioning?
Make your trips short and try to run your errands earlier in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler outside. Don’t leave your kids or pets inside a parked car, no matter the circumstances. Car temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels.
“Every year, people leave their children in a car, and every year children die,” Potter said.
When your car is parked, try to keep it in a garage, in shade, or use a sun shade.
Another option is to take public transportation, which has air conditioning in the Twin Cities, Potter said.
What if I can’t avoid being outside this week?
Make sure to keep water with you and a cool, damp cloth or bandana to put around your neck or forehead to cool off. If you work outside during the day, take breaks in the shade as often as you can.
Are there public places I can go to cool off?
Those without air conditioning and those who are homeless should consider public cooling centers. Potter advises people to call their local city government and ask where the public cooling centers are located.
Many cooling centers are listed on a map online at Hennepin County’s website here: https://www.hennepin.us/residents/health-medical/cooling-options. Ramsey County offers a similar map of cooling centers here: https://ramseygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=e5cde9e2bb5b460796b49f1081908e1c.
The Salvation Army is also offering cooling options at their locations across the Twin Cities metro, according to MPR News. Their addresses are:
- Salvation Army Temple, 1604 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
- Salvation Army Parkview, 2024 Lyndale Ave. N, Minneapolis
- Salvation Army Central, 2727 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
- Salvation Army Noble, 10011 Noble Pkwy., Brooklyn Park
- Salvation Army Eastside, 1019 Payne Ave., St. Paul
- Salvation Army Citadel, 401 W. 7th St., St. Paul
- Salvation Army Lakewood, 2080 Woodlynn Ave., St. Paul / Maplewood