Experts warn high temperatures can cause heat stroke

COVINGTON -- For the traditional summer kick-off weekend, the temperatures will be sweltering and experts are urging due caution during outdoor activities.

Friday was designated Heatstroke Awareness Day and Covington Fire Department's Capt. Tony Smith said his department wanted to take the opportunity to urge citizens to take precautions this summer against heat stroke and above all warn against leaving children, the elderly or pets in a parked vehicle.

"We just want people to be safe and pay attention to their bodies and stay hydrated," he said. "People think heat stroke can't happen to them, but when those temperatures rise, it can and does happen."

Weather forecasters are predicting a heat wave for most of the country this Memorial Day and promise discomfort for outdoor activities such as memorial services, graduations and sports events. They estimate with the actual temperature in the mid-90s, on paved surfaces that are exposed to the sun for most of the day, the "RealFeel" temperature will top 120 degrees.

"The heat and humidity will catch some folks off guard who are not yet accustomed to the conditions," stated Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com in a press release. "Be sure to drink plenty of fluids if you will be exposed to the heat this weekend. Avoid prolonged strenuous activity from late morning through the afternoon. Try to take breaks from the sun, if possible."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is issuing warnings and reminders to parents about the dangers of heat stroke on young children, estimating that at least 33 children in the U.S. lost their lives in 2011 after being left in unattended vehicles. Georgia is listed as one of the six states in the nation with the highest incidences of heat stroke fatalities of children 3 and younger.

According to a fact sheet issued by NHTSA children's bodies overheat easily, absorbing more heat on a hot day than an adult's and those under 3 years old are at the greatest risk of heat-related illness. KidsandCars.org shows that 87 percent of children who died from vehicular heatstroke are age 3 and younger.

Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the thermoregulatory system is overwhelmed. A core temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

-- red, hot and moist or dry skin

-- no sweating

-- a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse

-- a throbbing headache

-- dizziness

-- nausea

-- confusion

-- being grouchy or acting strangely

Experts warn that heatstroke can occur even in vehicles parked in shaded areas with temperatures of only 80 degrees due to the increased temperatures inside a vehicle on such days.

Statistics show that in 54 percent of the cases of a child's death due to being left in a vehicle, the caregiver unknowingly or accidentally left the child in the vehicle and in 30 percent of the cases, the child got into the vehicle on their own.

These tips are given to avoid those situations:

-- Never leave an infant or child unattended in a vehicle even if windows are partly open or the engine is running with the air conditioning on.

-- Don't let children play in an unattended vehicle.

-- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the door and walking away

-- Take specific steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle by writing yourself a note and placing is where you'll see it when you leave the vehicle; place your purse or something else you're sure to need in the back seat so you'll observe a child there; keep an object such as a stuffed toy in the car seat and once the child is buckled in, place it where the driver can see it to alert them a child is in the seat.

-- Keep a parked vehicle locked and the keys away from the child. If a child is missing, always check the parked vehicle first, including the trunk.

-- Ask caregivers to call you if the child is late in arriving.

Citizens are urged if they see a child left alone in a hot vehicle to call 911.