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The dangers of south Georgia summers
Hospital ER sees 2-3 heat-related cases per day

The tragic deaths earlier this week of an elderly Leefield couple due to heat stroke are a harsh reminder of the potential dangers of hot south Georgia summers.

Mary and Larry Greer were found in their home about four miles from Brooklet on Monday. Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch said it felt like 110 degrees inside the Greer’s mobile home.

“Our sympathies go out to the family,” said Dr. Alan Scott, who is the medical director of Emergency Services at East Georgia Regional Medical Center.

“Heat and humidity can be a deadly combination,” he said. “During the hottest months of the summer, we’ll have two to three people per day come to the emergency room – not with true heat stroke, but suffering from heat-related illnesses.”

Dr. Scott said a combination of direct sun, heat and inadequate water intake create the risk factors for heat exhaustion, potentially leading to heat stroke.

“You can usually get by with one of those factors for a time, but if you have all of them combined, you’re multiplying your risk factors,” he said.

Scott said a heat-related health crisis would cause people to feel exceptionally tired, nauseated, dizzy, weak and probably have cramps.

“If you don’t get out of the sun, if you don’t get some fluids and you continue to overheat, then that can progress to heat stroke, which is a markedly elevated body temperature,” he said. “You could lose consciousness, or have an altered mental status – confusion or delirium. And if that is not treated right away, it can rapidly progress to death.”


Heat stroke

If you feel like you or someone you’re with is experiencing symptoms of heat stroke, Dr. Scott said to seek emergency medical care immediately.

“Most patients come in with heat exhaustion,” he said. “We have had several present with heat stroke or on the verge of heat stroke. Fortunately, we haven’t had any fatalities in the hospital. We have been able to intervene and circumvent the process before it turns deadly.”

If someone is in a heat crisis, the Mayo Clinic advises the following actions to take right away:

·         Put the person in a cool tub of water or a cool shower.

·         Spray the person with a garden hose.

·         Sponge the person with cool water.

·         Fan the person while misting with cool water.

·         Place ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits and groin.

·         Cover the person with cool damp sheets.

“During the summer, people outdoors either working, playing sports or just having fun are at high risk if they don’t ingest the amount of fluid needed as your body perspires, trying to keep you cool,” Dr. Scott said. “If you don’t replenish that internal hydration, then that puts you at risk of dehydration.

“Another factor is that drinking alcohol multiplies your risk factors substantially. Moderation in the heat is always advised.”


Energy assistance

The state does have a program that helps low-income people with their energy bills. The Georgia Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program begins April 1 every year and runs through Sept. 30.

It is a Federally-funded program that offers:

·         Energy Bill payment assistance.

·         Energy crisis assistance to households experiencing heating or cooling emergencies that are life threatening

·         Provide long-term, low-cost residential weatherization assistance

The energy assistance program is administered through Georgia Community Action Agencies. Residents of Bulloch County interested in more information about the program and to see if they are eligible, may call (912) 557-6687.

Or, people may go to and follow the instructions to apply for assistance online.

In addition to Bulloch, residents of the following area counties also may contact the same phone number and website: Candler, Effingham, Evans and Tattnall.

In Screven, Jenkins or Emanuel counties, contact (706) 722-0493 or (706) 722-2207.


Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.

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