Decoding Weather Health Warnings

There's potentially vital health information in those confounding and confusing weather boxes and indexes. If you understand the facts, you'll be prepared for whatever the wind blows your way.


When You Feel It

People with allergies will feel symptoms when the count tips into the yellow range.

What to Do

Because pollen counts are highest from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., don't sleep with your windows open, advises Dr. Pamela A. Georgeson, president of Kenwood Allergy and Asthma Center in Chesterfield Township, Michigan. Run the air conditioner to filter allergens. Before bed, take a shower to remove pollen that may be sticking to you.

How It's Measured

AQI is a composite of five pollutants, including ground-level ozone. It's keyed to a number from 0 to 500 and a color chart: green, yellow, orange, and red.

What to Do

Some doctors may suggest taking an extra dose of medication on high days, but you should check with yours to see if that's a good idea.

When You Feel It

When the UV outlook reaches the high levels of 6 to 7, alerts go out. However, if you have fair skin, your potential for burn begins even in the moderate range, notes Dr. Mary P. Lupo, a dermatologist in New Orleans.

How It's Measured

The heat index measures how hot it feels based on air temperature and moisture in the air. It has four warning levels: caution, extreme caution, danger, and extreme danger.

When You Feel It

The heat index is usually highest between 4 and 5 p.m.

What to Do

Drink fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you plan on being outside doing strenuous activity, do it when the index is lowest, usually early in the morning around sunrise.

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