Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TOP STORY >> No relief in sight for heat wave

Temperatures are going to be smoldering for the rest of this week with weather forecasters predicting triple-digit highs.

Temperatures will range from 99 today up to 105 through the weekend.

How important is it to stay cool? Seventeen Arkansans died from heat-related illness in 2011 and there is an average of 400 heat-related deaths a year nationwide, according to a release from the state Health Department. One person died Tuesday in Fayeteville from heat exhaustion.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer.

Spokeswoman Amya Arnone of North Metro Medical Center said four people have been to the emergency room for heat-related illnesses and a fifth person visited a doctor for heat syncope, which is when a person faints from being too hot.

Seniors who may not have an air-conditioned home are welcome to come into the Jacksonville Senior Activity and Wellness Center and the Jack Evans Senior Citizen Center in Sherwood to cool off.

The cooling center in the American Legion Post at 208 N. First St. in Cabot opened on Monday. It will be available for anyone without access to air-conditioning when temperatures reach 100 or the heat index reaches 105, as determined by the National Weather Service.

Hours for the center are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.

An Ozone Action Advisory, which means there are higher levels of air pollution, has been issued for the past several days in Pulaski and Lonoke counties.

According to the health department’s news release, excessive heat can cause the following disorders, which are progressive and should be treated immediately:

Heat cramps, prolonged muscle pain caused by heavy sweating that depletes salt and magnesium in the body. Treatment is salt replacement, cooling down and gentle massage.

Heat exhaustion, the most common heat-related illness. It happens while someone is working outside or attending outdoor events in hot weather.

The symptoms include weakness, feeling faint, dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion. Those suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved to a cooler place and wet cloths should be used on them. Fluid and salt should be replaced.

Depending on the severity, the person may need to go to the hospital for intravenous fluid replacement. Heat exhaustion is usually a precursor to heat stroke.

Heat stroke (also called sunstroke), a life-threatening condition. A person’s temperature control system stops working. Sweating doesn’t help the body cool down or it stops altogether.

The body gets so hot that the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be permanently damaged. The symptoms are sudden high fever, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and seizures.

Someone should call 911 immediately and get the patient cooled off as quickly as possible with ice, a cold bath and wet sheets.

As for the high levels of air pollution — children, the elderly and people with breathing problem such as asthma are most at risk, according to a release from Ozone Action Days, a public awareness program of Metroplan in partnership with the state health department and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Symptoms of exposure may include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation, according to the release. Steps people can take to avoid those symptoms include limiting prolonged exposure to the outdoors.

People can decrease pollution, according to the release, by:

Riding a bus or carpooling to work;

Riding a bike instead of driving;

Postponing or consolidating errands;

Bringing a sack lunch or walking to lunch;

Going with an alternative work schedule and telecommuting opportunities;

Driving a little slower and accelerating gradually;

And delaying refueling, yard mowing or barbecuing until after 6 p.m.

Another result of higher temperatures could be shortages due to higher demand for water.

According to a release from Central Arkansas Water, some customers may see slightly discolored water caused by the increased amount of water flowing through water mains.

A release from the health department suggests people:

Water their lawn only when it needs it.

Deep soak the lawn rather than sprinkling lightly, which tends to evaporate quickly.

Water during the cool part of the day, such as early morning.

Don’t waste water on gutters, driveways and sidewalks.

Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants because mulch will hold moisture longer and it will evaporate more slowly.

Use automatic dishwashers and washing machines only on full loads.

Don’t let the faucet run when cleaning vegetables or washing dishes. Rinse them in a stoppered sink or pan of clean water.

Don’t let water run when brushing teeth or shaving.

Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator.

Check faucets, pipes and toilets for drips or leaks.

and Install water-saving showerheads or flow restrictors.