FRIDAY, July 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- As a massive "heat dome" stretches across the United States this week, sending temperatures and humidity levels soaring, experts offer advice on how to keep cool as the mercury rises to possibly record levels.
The Midwest bore the brunt of the dome's oppressive influence Thursday, but the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will be under its scorching effect by the weekend.
With a heat dome, a massive ridge of high pressure essentially traps hot air underneath it, and miserably hot weather is the inevitable result, according to The Weather Channel. The risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death, is high when such blistering temperatures arrive, experts noted.
Twelve states, from Louisiana to the Great Lakes region, had already issued heat alerts by Thursday, and possibly more than 21 states will be under the dome at its peak, according to NBC News.
With the network predicting that 130 million Americans will see heat indexes reach the 100s before the dome departs, here are several ways to keep the heat from making you seriously ill.
"Although preventable, many heat-related illnesses, including deaths, occur annually. Older adults, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible," said Dr. Barry Rosenthal. He is chair of the department of emergency medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital, in Mineola, N.Y.
"However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to the heat if one does not take appropriate precautions," he added.
Rosenthal outlined how to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses during such hot weather. One of the best ways is to be in an air-conditioned building. If your home doesn't have air conditioning, go to a cooling center or an air-conditioned public place such as a library or shopping mall.
Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing, wear a hat or use an umbrella, and apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. It's also important to drink plenty of water, to stay hydrated. Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated and sugary beverages, Rosenthal advised.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medications you're taking increase your risk of heat-related illness. For example, diuretics (water pills) can pose a risk during hot weather. If you're taking a medication that raises the risk of heat-related problems, ask your doctor if there are additional steps you need to take to reduce the risk.
If possible, limit strenuous outdoor activity and exercise to early morning or evening, when temperatures are lower. Monitor local news and weather channels or contact your local public health department during extreme heat for health and safety updates.
Check on people who are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses, such as elderly loved ones and neighbors.
"At first signs of heat illness -- dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps -- move to a cooler place, rest a few minutes, then slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if conditions do not improve," Rosenthal said.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on the dangers of extreme heat.