“Heat stress is the leading cause of weather-related deaths and can exacerbate underlying illness including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health, asthma and can increase the risk of accidents and transmission of some infectious diseases. Heatstroke is a medical emergency with a high case fatality rate,” according to the World Health Organization.

Scared yet? Well, it is going to be hot for the next few days – really hot – and although we have dealt with the heat before I think, if you are like me, we have been lulled into a kind of weather bliss with the cooler temperatures of spring. It does seem it was only a few days ago that I was complaining about the constant May Gray and June Gloom … oh, wait – it was just a few weeks ago. The weather seemed to go from rain and clouds to “Wow, it’s hot” without any time for “What a lovely cool day.”

There is a great website at where you can track the heatwave across the nation. Today’s high temperatures will stretch across the southern states.

According to a New York Times article updated on July 3 titled “Tracking Dangerous Heat in the U.S.,” about 83.6 million people across the U.S. live in areas expected to have dangerous levels of heat during the next few days.

One of the first things that can happen if a human body is exposed to extreme heat is the inability to sweat. Sweating is actually the human body’s swamp cooler. We sweat so when there is some air that blows across the skin, it is cooling. When people stop perspiring they can quickly move from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Heat can also affect the brain; people can get confused and in some cases lose consciousness.

Every part of your body can be affected by the heat, including your circulatory system and central nervous system.

We have seen those movies where overheated people walking through the desert imagine all kinds of things including an oasis. We see how just a little water cures everything; however, that is not always the case, especially if you don’t drink throughout the day but wait until you start seeing the non-existing oasis.

It is important to continue to hydrate throughout the day. If you start drinking water too late you may not be able to drink enough to catch up with your body’s needs.

One thing that is really important is to drink water before you feel thirsty. This is one thing I seem to forget. I wait until I feel a little lightheaded then try to remember when was the last time I drank anything. By then I am already so hot and tired I really can’t remember anything … and that is when my kids bring water to me and remind me to drink.

And according to the CDC, it is better to drink fluids at shorter intervals and not to drink more than 48 ounces in one hour.

Drinking too much water or other fluids (sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.) can cause an emergency because the concentration of salt in the blood becomes too low.

Water is still the best liquid to drink during a heat wave. Some energy drinks contain more caffeine than coffee, which can raise caffeine levels enough to affect your heart. Some energy drinks also contain more sugar than soft drinks. Alcohol can cause dehydration and drinking alcohol within 24 hours of working in the heat can increase the risk of heat illness.

The amount of caffeine in tea, coffee and soft drinks probably will not have an effect on overall hydration, according to the CDC.

I would say all of this would come down to common sense but a lot of times heat issues sneak up on us. We are at a fourth of July event, for example, and feel the heat but are not paying attention to how much we are drinking. Then things get a little hazy and we just take a little drink and continue on; then we get a headache and another drink of water seems to make a person feel more ill than better. So remember that it is important to drink water but it is equally important to monitor when we drink and how often we hydrate.

Stay cool, find a cooling station and just stay hydrated.

According to NOAA, temperatures are going up from today’s highs of upper 80s to 90s to even higher temperatures over the weekend. And the trend will not end soon as high temps will continue into next week.