Be ready for hot weather, mayor warns

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Interim Mayor Joe Ford announced Shelby County's plans Monday to help county residents keep cool during hot weather.

Looking ahead to a hot week, Ford warned residents to prepare for high temperatures.

"I'm placing Shelby County on a heightened state of awareness," he said.

Dr. Kenneth Robinson, Shelby County's Health Officer, asked area residents to keep an eye on people over age 65, and age under six.

"We simply want our public to understand that this is a serious heat emergency," he said. "There are health-related effects particularly for people in vulnerable age groups."

Anyone with pre-existing illnesses are also prone to heat risks.  That was the case with the first heat-related death in the county on June 2.

"This is an individual who had other medical conditions, and the heat exacerbated her health condition," said Brenda Ward of the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.

Ford said Shelby County will set up cooling tents if temperatures climb into triple digits. Meanwhile, his office is asking area big box retailers for fan and air conditioner donations. They already have 115 new AC window units and hundreds of fans to give away.

Call the Aging Commission at 901-324-3399 for the fans.  Staring Tuesday, Shelby County residents can call 545-4311 to inquire about how to receive an air conditioner.

The Memphis and Shelby County Health Department offers the following tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of cool fluid, especially water; but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
  • Limit outdoor activities.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Stay cool indoors, especially in the heat of the day.
  • Never leave anyone in a car.
  • Monitor those at high risk.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down.  Body temperatures rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.  Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness, nausea
  • Mental confusion, shallow breathing and possible unconsciousness

Heat Exhaustion:

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate fast and weak
  • Breathing fast and shallow

The Health Department also emphasizes that during periods of intense and prolonged heat, it is especially important to check on elderly relatives and neighbors.  The elderly are more likely to have health conditions or take medications that make them more vulnerable to the heat, and their bodies do not adjust well to sudden changed in temperature.  If you have elderly friends or relatives, you can help protect them from heat-related stress by:
Visiting at least twice a day to watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.
Encouraging them to drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages.

The Aging Commission of the Mid-South's Fan for Seniors Program uses volunteers to deliver fans to persons over the age of 65.  Individuals may receive a fan every other year if they live in Shelby County and do not have functioning air conditioning.  Those in need a fan or wanting to make a donation to the program may contact the Aging Commission of the Mid-South at (901) 324-6333.

For more information contact the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department's Epidemiology Section at (901) 544-7717 during normal business hours.  For more information about heat-related illnesses, including prevention and treatment tips, visit the CDC's Extreme Heat Safety Web site at

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