TUESDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Scorching heat and oppressive humidity continued to grip much of the United States Tuesday, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees -- and in some cases 100 degrees -- from the Southwest to the Northeast.
The heat wave is prompting doctors to warn that high temperatures can cause serious -- and potentially fatal -- health problems.
"The body has ways of keeping itself cool, by letting heat escape through the skin, and by perspiring," said Dr. Ken Sable, vice chair of emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, where the mercury was expected to top out at 95 degrees on Tuesday.
"If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, the victim may suffer a heat-related illness. Anyone can be susceptible although the very young and very old are at greater risk. Heat-related illnesses can become serious or even deadly if unattended," he added.
Dr. Janyce Sanford, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, said heat-related illnesses span a range of ills, from mild to severe. "Someone who has been working out in the heat may start to experience the beginning stages with heat cramps. As it progresses, the next step is heat exhaustion. They may develop a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of severe weakness," she said in a university news release.
The most serious -- and potentially fatal -- heat-related illness is heat stroke, Sanford said.
"When you reach this point, the severely elevated body temperature causes an altered mental state, dizziness and ultimately can lead to a loss of consciousness. The muscles can start to break down, which leads to kidney failure; this makes heat stroke a life-threatening illness," she said.
Though rare, heat stroke is most often seen in very young and elderly people, or people with a chronic illness.
Sable said the safest place to be during
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