As a third straight day with a heat advisory awaits the Shoals today, authorities are stressing the importance of awareness of heat-related illnesses.
The National Weather Service office in Huntsville has issued a heat advisory from noon to 7 p.m. today, with the heat index possibly reaching 106 degrees.
It is possible the area could gain some relief, however, with the forecast calling for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. That increases to 60 percent tonight.
Things should be more mild starting Friday with the forecast calling for a high near 87 and a 50 percent chance of rain.
Dr. Karen Landers, district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said it is important to detect signs of being overheated, but it also is key to avoid getting in such a situation.
"The big message is prevention," Landers said. "I know we tend to want to push ourselves, but we need to take extra measures."
She said it is essential to drink non-alcoholic and non-caffeine fluids if you are outdoors.
"The most important information that we can continue to stress to people when it's hot outside is first of all be aware that you need to stay hydrated," Landers said. "Also, take extra care for persons who might be more at risk for heat-related illness, such as children and elderly."
She recalls hearing about a recent case in another part of the country involving someone falling while coming down from a ladder after doing roof work. The person fainted and was alone in the yard for a while before someone found him, which added to the heat stress.
Fortunately, he survived, but that should come as an example of the dangers of the heat, Landers said. She added that if you feel the effects of being overheated, don't try to push through it.
Landers said if you must be outdoors, try to stay in shade as much as possible and wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Also, wear sunscreen because, along with the other issues of a sunburn, it adds to the impact of the heat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on detecting signs of heat-related illnesses.
The agency said heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast and weak pulse, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache and fainting.
Headache, dizziness, nausea and fainting also are signs of heat stroke, according to the agency. Additional signs include a body temperature of at least 103 degrees; hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; and confusion.
You should call 911 in the event of heat stroke.