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Feeling the heat: Expert urges caution during summer temperatures

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Sylvester Brown with the Georgia Department of Transportation had to drink quite a few cups of water to keep hydrated Tuesday as hot temperatures and hot asphalt make his job an uncomfortable and dangerous one this summer. Brown and other GDOT employees are working this week to pave over the old railroad tracks on Emory Street, just behind Newton Federal Bank. GDOT Highway Maintenance foreman Keith Reeves said they are trying to get the workmen out early and pay close attention to make sure everyone is getting enough fluids at frequent intervals.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Sylvester Brown with the Georgia Department of Transportation had to drink quite a few cups of water to keep hydrated Tuesday as hot temperatures and hot asphalt make his job an uncomfortable and dangerous one this summer. Brown and other GDOT employees are working this week to pave over the old railroad tracks on Emory Street, just behind Newton Federal Bank. GDOT Highway Maintenance foreman Keith Reeves said they are trying to get the workmen out early and pay close attention to make sure everyone is getting enough fluids at frequent intervals.

COVINGTON -- Temperatures are officially predicted to reach triple digits today, but if you've been paying attention locally, you'll know 100-degree temperatures have already been seen more than once this summer. And there seems to be very little relief on the horizon for the long, hot summer of 2011.

In addition to being just plain uncomfortable, the prolonged heat can cause serious illness and even death. Statistics reveal from 1979 to 2003, there were more than 8,000 deaths in the U.S. related to excessive heat -- that's more deaths than resulted from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. The folks at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta are warning residents to take precautions during the heat wave to avoid heat-related illness.

"We want people to stay cool; say hydrated; and stay informed. Those are our three main messages," said Jay Dempsey, health communications specialist with the CDC.

Dempsey said there are three main groups of people who are more at risk for health-related illness -- the elderly, the very young and those with chronic medical conditions.

"If you know someone in these categories who is without air conditioning, we urge people to check on them at least twice a day," he said.

He said the elderly are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperatures and infants and young children are more sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and have to rely on caretakers to keep them cool and hydrated.

He recommended that those who are exposed to high temperatures wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.

He said they do not recommend that people stop exercising, but encourage them to try to exercise in an air conditioned building, limit outdoor activity during the middle of the day when temperatures are hottest and to slowly allow your body to adjust to the hot temperatures.

Everyone, whether physically active or not, should drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.

"And a little more than that in the heat, particularly if they are active," Dempsey said. "Drink two to four cups every hour while working or exercising outside."

And while a cold beer or a glass of sweet tea may sound like it will quench your thirst, Dempsey said it is best to avoid alcohol or sugar during really hot days as these can actually cause you to lose more body fluid.

The two heat-related illnesses that residents should be watchful for are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Dempsey said the symptoms for heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin, nausea and feeling faint.

"With this condition, you can actually get so hot, your body won't sweat," he said. "The victim should be moved to a cooler location, loosen their clothing, give them water and apply cool, wet cloths to the body. If the symptoms don't subside, seek medical attention immediately."

Heat stroke is a much more dangerous condition. The victim has a body temperature of 103-degrees or higher, the skin is hot and red, has a rapid or strong pulse and may become unconscious.

"If this occurs, it is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately," Dempsey said.

For more information on health and safety during hot weather, go to cdc.gov/nceh/extremeheat.