Heat hits this area hard

Published 11:47 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer has finally arrived, and the temperatures across Alabama and the Deep South have already reached triple digits for a couple of weeks now.

This is one of the most hazardous times of the year as far as weather-related health hazards are concerned. Heat stroke, skin cancer, sunburn and suffocation are prominent risks when the weather gets unbearably hot.

Temperatures are generally at their hottest from noon to 3 p.m., and people should avoid being outside in direct sunlight during those times.

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Beth Cargile, the emergency department nurse manager at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, said that people can provide their own common-sense medicine to prevent health hazards.

“People need to drink lots of fluids, especially water,” she said. “Things to stay away from would be caffeinated drinks and anything that would increase your urinary output, because that would make you dehydrate faster.

“If they’re going to work outside, they need to schedule it in the cooler parts of the day, like early morning and late afternoon.”

She added that people should apply and re-apply a sunblock as needed and take frequent breaks to cool off. She also said that people should wear light clothing.

“People should check in on elderly family members and neighbors, and make sure that they have adequate cooling — lots of fans or windows are open,” Cargile said.

Cargile said that heat stroke is also a danger in the summer. The first signs of heat stroke include going from being really sweaty to not sweating at all.

“You’ll stop perspiring and have a headache,” she said. “If you get these kinds of symptoms, you should seek assistance right away.”

Keeping children or pets in a car in the hot sun is also dangerous, as the temperature inside a car can increase faster and to a higher temperature than outside the car, even with the window open.

Lucille Carpenter, the director of the City of Demopolis animal control office, reminds people to help their pets stay cool.

“If you have long-haired dogs, you need to get them shaved or groomed in some manner,” she said. “You need to provide plenty of fresh water daily. The reason for that is, when you put that fresh water in, it’s got more oxygen in it, and it tastes better. Plus, it’s doing more good for your pet.

“People should provide plenty of shade — not just a cover or a doghouse — but something under a tree or a bush that will actually put of cool air. I read that one big tree will emit as much cool air as 30 window air conditioners. So, a big, shady tree would be ideal.”

Carpenter added that people need to provide clean bedding for their pets, as old bedding is likely to have flea eggs in it. She added that people need to have flea treatment available because fleas and ticks thrive in this weather. She also said that people need to provide a fan for their pets, if possible.