It isn’t even July yet, but apparently no one told Mother Nature. The early arrival of intense heat indices soaring above the 100 degree mark is sending people to the emergency room on a daily basis, said East Georgia Regional Medical Center Dr. Alan Scott.
Anywhere from two to five people have been visiting the hospital’s emergency room daily, seeking treatment for heat exhaustion or heat stroke, he said. “Fifteen to 20 percent of those are hospitalized.”
Usually, those over 65, or young children and people with other serious health issues are more susceptible to the heat, but those who work outdoors are at risk as well, he said.
“The heat coming so early caught people off guard,” he said. “It hit us so early, people weren’t prepared or acclimated.”
With extreme humidity, the human body can’t cool itself properly by sweating. “There is too much water in the air and (sweat) can’t evaporate.” When the body becomes overheated to the point of heat stroke, “you can’t sweat.”
According to Internet website www.webmd.com, symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar.
Signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, nausea, headache, excessive thirst, cramps, weakness, confusion, anxiety, dizziness, fainting, and agitation.
These symptoms can also indicate heat stroke, which has the following signs as well; hot, dry skin, absence of sweating, with an elevated body temperature of 104 to 106. Other indications of heat stroke include decreased urination, blood in the urine or stool, loss of consciousness, convulsions, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, according to the website.
If a person shows signs of either, cooling off is imperative, Scott said.
“Move to the shade, get a fan, and drink plenty of water,” he said. “Avoid alcohol and don‘t drink water that is too cold, because it can cause cramps.”
Webmd.com advises to seek medical attention if the heat exhaustion or heat stroke symptoms are severe.
“Heat stroke can occur suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, get medical attention immediately. Any delay can be fatal,” according to the site.
Unless necessary, avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day, Scott said. If possible, ”Stay indoors with the air conditioner, or work in the early morning or late evening. Wear a wide brimmed hat, and light, loose-fitting clothing. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks.”
The heat wave isn’t over, although there should be rain coming over the weekend that may help lower the temperatures some. However, Scott reminds people that increased humidity combined with high temperatures makes it harder for the human body to cool itself.
The National Weather Service (www.weather.gov) reports high temperatures will remain in the lower to mid ‘90’s through next week, with thunderstorms likely through Monday morning.
Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said Friday the weekend will likely contain all day rainfall Saturday and Sunday, with a good chance of rain Monday morning. Over the next week, temperatures range from low to mid ‘70’s up to low to mid ‘90’s, with heat indices rising well above the 100 degree mark.
Wynn advises people to check on the elderly, and if you can’t bring pets inside, make sure pets and livestock have plenty of shade, shelter, and cool water to drink.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.