Wednesday, August 08, 2007

TOP STORY >>August’s hot days call for caution

Leader staff writer

July was relatively cool and wet, but August has started out, well, like August—hot and dry.

Temperatures are forecasted to hit in the triple-digits by the weekend for the first time this year and that has Don Hindman, executive director of Sherwood’s Jack Evans Senior Citizens Center concerned.

Hindman lost both his dad and his father-in-law from heat- related illnesses. “They both were working outside and got overheated,” he explained.

He has reason to be concerned as the state health department confirmed the second heat-related death of the year Monday. Last year, seven heat-related deaths were reported to the state health department.

So at the monthly senior luncheon, attended by about 100 people Monday, Hindman took time out from the cheery activities to remind everyone to try and stay indoors or do their gardening and yard work early in the morning.

A temperature of 95 degrees, coupled with humidity, makes it feel like 102 degrees, and the forecast for the entire week calls for high temperatures in the 98 to 100 degree range.

“We keep our air conditioner on high during the day and many seniors will come in and play cards or other activities during the day,” Hindman said. “It saves them money from running their air.”

Nikeba Davis, executive director of the Jacksonville Senior Center said her wheels-on-meals volunteers do a great job checking on seniors.

“When they deliver the meals, they are making sure the house is cool enough and talking to the people and making sure everything is okay. If they see a problem, they let us know and we help in any way that we can.”

The wheels-on-meals program delivers about 200 meals a day.

Davis also says her center has spent time educating seniors about staying cool and, of course, the Jacksonville center is also open and cool for seniors to come spend the day.

“And if anyone has fans to donate, we’ll be happy to take them,” Davis added. Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services, which provides ambulance service in Sherwood, Cabot and other parts of Pulaski and Lonoke County, has noticed a rise in heat-related runs.

“We don’t have a heat-related category, but this past week we’ve had enough calls to notice it,” said Greg Thompson, with MEMS.

He said part of the problem is that this heat has sneaked up on people.

“We had a mild July, and people haven’t become accustomed to the weather, and realize that they have to take extra precautions,” Thompson said.

Fire chiefs with the Jacksonville and Sherwood fire departments have not had any major runs this summer during the heat of the day. “Not yet,” said Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof, “but we are prepared.”

He said all fire trucks carry plenty of ice water and carry misters to help cool firefighters and others on the scene.
Vanderhoof’s advice to battle the heat is simple. “Don’t be outside if you don’t have to be. Stay inside.”

He added that for those who have to be out — drink plenty of fluids (water, not soda), take breaks and use common sense.
Linda Sakiewicz, with Jacksonville Animal Control, says not to forget about pets in these hot sunny days.

“Make sure they have plenty of fresh water and shade,” she said.

“Don’t leave your animals in the car,” Sakiewicz said. “In 10 minutes in 80 degree weather with the windows down can cause your animal’s temperature to be over 110 degrees and could cause heat stroke,” she said.

According to the National Weather Service, Thursday through Saturday will be sunny and hot with temperatures near 99 degrees.

There are four major heat-related disorders that everyone needs to be aware of, according to the NWS. They are sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Sunburns can range from mild redness and small blisters that ointments and creams can help to serious, extensive burning that calls for a trip to the doctor or even the emergency room.

Usually firm pressure on the cramped muscle or massaging the area will give relief to those suffering from heat cramps, along with sips of water and getting the person out of the sun.

A person suffering from heat exhaustion needs to get out of the sun as quickly as possible. Get the person to lie down and loosen clothing.

Apply cool, wet cloths and get the person into an air conditioned room or one with a fan, and give sips of water.
If the person starts to vomit, then seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include feeling faint and weak, dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion.
Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, is a severe medical emergency and the person should either be taken to the hospital or 911 needs to be called.

Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, do not give the person fluids.

Just move them to a cooler area and try to reduce the body temperature with a cold bath or sponging.

A person’s temperature-control system stops working when they are suffering a heat stroke, according to the state health department.

Sweating stops completely and the body’s temperature can rise so high that the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be permanently damaged.