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It's hot. High temperatures and a lack of rain have brought about the country's widest-ranging drought since the 1950s. The entire state of Missouri has been declared a federal disaster area, along with 82 counties in Kansas. Crops are struggling to survive, and so are cattle farmers who can't feed their livestock.

Skip The Soda, Fans During This Week's Heat Warnings In Kansas City

Ray Tsang

Excessive heat warnings hit the Kansas City area on Monday and Tuesday.

And forecasters predict dangerously high temperatures  at least through mid- week.

The elderly, infants and young children, those with dementia or other cognitive impairments, and those who work outside are among the most vulnerable to heat-related illness.

Dr. Lee Norman,  chief medical officer, of the University of Kansas Hospital says the combination of heat and the kind of high humidity we're experiencing increases what’s called “the heat index.”  The combo can cause body temperatures to rise and the body to lose water.

Norman says signs of dehydration can be low blood pressure, high heart rates and a darkening of the urine.

“It’s especially hard for people who do physical labor outside. They need more water than they might think they need,” Norman says.  “The other group is athletes, who might think they can do their usual seven mile run at noon, and then after four miles they collapse in a heap.”

Other symptoms of heat illnesses include fatigue, dizziness or disorientation.

Norman says coffee,  other caffeine drinks and alcohol are diuretics.  Carbonated drinks can fill the stomach with gas which can mask symptoms of dehydration — so avoid sodas.

Bill Snook, spokesman for the Kansas City Missouri Health Department says those relying on fans to cool their homes need to be careful.

He says there's something called “the furnace effect."  That's  when the body tries to cool itself by sweating and letting that water evaporate from the skin.  But when humidity is very high, he says there isn't room for the perspiration to leave the body.

‘So what you’re doing,” Snook says, “is putting more humid hot air on a body that can’t get cool from that air so you’re more efficiently heating your body up.”

Snook says if you don't have air conditioning,  take cool showers and use a cold compress on the head, neck and lower body. The best solution, however, is to find an air-conditioned place, such as a public library or community center.

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