Doctors recommend caution with spending too much time in the Midnight Sun

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While Anchorage is breaking records for extreme heat and Alaskans are heading outside to play, local doctors say be careful!

Beach goers enjoy the sun at Jewel Lake Friday. (KTUU)

Dr. Daniel Safranek is the emergency medical director at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. He says heat like we’ve seen here in Alaska is something people need to adapt to slowly, because we’re simply not accustomed to 90-degree weather.

“Having the extreme heat here in Alaska is more challenging physiologically,” Safranek said.

Heat exhaustion is the common side effect of prolonged heat exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include heavy sweating and rapid pulse, and if left untreated can lead to heatstroke. Safranek says there are some key things Alaskans can do to stay safe and avoid heat-related illnesses.

“The important things are staying hydrated, trying to stay out of the heat as much as you can, if you can stay inside or in a cooler environment,” Safranek said. “Also, avoiding wearing heavy clothes can also make a difference in helping your body dissipate the heat.“

The Mayo Clinic recommends approximately three liters of water per day to stay well-hydrated. Severe cases of heat exhaustion are rare, however Alaskans who work in construction and other manual labor industries are at higher risk of what Safranek calls exertional heat illness.

“It’s obviously an ongoing problem,” he said. “Especially for the people who need to be out there working, like firefighters, construction workers, and then athletes who are trying to perform in the heat, as they were on the Fourth of July.”

Older people who are less mobile and may not be able to escape heat in their homes are also at significant risk, according to Safranek.

“The people who have the hardest time are those that are in an environment where they can’t get help. This is heat-related illness due to elderly people’s inability to dissipate heat,” he said. “Also, they take medications that may impair their ability to sweat, or dissipate heat in ways other people can.”

Safranek recommends if you have elderly relatives or neighbors to check on them regularly to make sure their environment is safe and cool.

Safranek says Providence has seen an uptick in emergency room visits over the past couple of weeks due to smoke-related illnesses.

“There’s no question the weather we’re having now is putting people at much higher risk,“ he said.

Recent fires in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula have created a significant amount of smoke, which aggravates emphysema and asthmatic symptoms. He recommends these patients try to stay indoors and limit physical exertion.

The Municipality of Anchorage is starting to monitor local hospitals for patients with heat-related illnesses and will release that information next week, according to a city official. The city is also reminding people not to leave pets and kids in their cars during this period of extreme heat.

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