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How Our Bodies Battle Extreme Heat

Hans Reniers
Our bodies cool themselves through sweating.

Summer weather has settled across the Midwest - and that means heat. Homeless people, children and the elderly become more at-risk to dehydration and possible fatality as temperatures climb. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses the impact heat has on the human body with University of Iowa physiologist Kevin Kregel. Kieffer also talks with Maureen Vogel from the National Safety Council, Emily Zimmon from Willis Dady Homeless Services, and Stacia Timmer from Elderbridge Agency on the Aging about the impact heat has on children, the homeless, and the elderly.

Credit Dakota Roos / Unsplash
Midwest summers bring the heat.

Kregel talks about the importance of staying hydrated and up on electrolytes.  He said our bodies are better at acclimatizing to the heat than they are to cold weather as exposure increases.

This year, over a dozen children have died on hot days from being left in a vehicle for too long.  Vogel believes this is simply because parents forget the children are in the car or they soundlessly fall asleep.  She offers these preventions:

  • Keep children hydrated throughout the day
  • Leave a cell phone, purse, or shoe in the backseat of your car
  • Make sure children don't fall asleep

The Willis Dady Homeless Services helps individuals and families who are near homelessness.  They give out reusable water bottles, sunscreen, and protective clothing to shield people from the sun.  Zimmon suggests homeless people seek coverage in these areas:

Credit Norm Wright / Flickr
Reusable water bottles can help you stay hydrated.

  • Public libraries
  • Museums
  • Public transit stations and waiting areas
  • A shelter

Timmer discusses how the elderly are impacted by heat more than they think.  She gives these reasons:

  • Elderly live alone and an issue due to heat can be hard to detect
  • Financial burden to run an air conditioner
  • Medications can make it more difficult for the body to cool itself 

The Elderbridge Agency on the Aging has resources to help during the hot days. 

Also, we continue our series of interviews about the leadership of 2020 presidential candidates with a home state view of U.S. Representative from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard.

Guests include:

  • Kevin Kregel, professor of human physiology and associate provost for faculty at the University of Iowa
  • Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council
  • Emily Zimmon, support services director and outreach director at Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids
  • Stacia Timmer, director of operations at Elderbridge Agency on the Aging
  • Catherine Cruz, host of Hawaii Public Radio's The Conversation


Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa