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Heat wave hits hard; how to avoid heat exhaustion
080707 HEAT WAVE 1
Brent Conner of Y-Delta general contractors tips a cooler on end and takes a big swig of water to stay hydrated while repairing and replacing sewer lines on the Westside connector Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Forecasts for the remainder of the week reflect what we already know - it's hot, and getting hotter. As the temperatures soar, experts warn people about the heat - and the heat index.
    According to the National Weather Service Internet web site (www.noaa.gov), excessive heat is the "number one weather-related killer, taking more than 1,500 lives in the U.S.  annually.
    Often people will say "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." The combination of extremely high  temperatures and high humidity can be deadly.
    According to the National Weather Service, the heat index "is a measure of how hot  it really feels when relative humidity  is added to the actual air temperature."
    Heat index values  apply to shady, breezy conditions, and exposure to full sunshine can make things worse by adding up to 15 degrees to the actual heat index, according to the web site.
    The danger of being outside during extremely hot weather include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as sunburn.
    Tuesday, emergency room doctors at East Georgia Regional Medical Center were already seeing a second day of patients coming in with complaints related to the heat, said Dr. Alan Scott.
    "Yesterday (Monday) was really busy and I'll expect today will  be, too," he said.
    The elderly and people doing manual labor outside are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses, he said. During the days when temperatures soar up to triple digits and the humidity is high, "you need to take special precautions."
    Dr. Chris Munger,  a member of the Family Health Care Center in Statesboro, recently addressed heat-related illnesses in his blog, "The Answer Doc," on the Statesboro Herald web site (www.statesboroherald.com.)
    "The amount of fluid loss is really what determines how quickly a person can get ill from the heat," he said. "This is complicated by several factors. The person's hydration status at the start of outdoor activity, the relative humidity, the temperature outdoors, the person's level of clothing."
    An average, well-hydrated man performing hard labor outside, would begin to feel the effects of the heat within an hour and a half on a day with the heat index soaring past 105 degrees, providing he did not drink during that period, he said.
    Perspiring helps cool the body, but also depletes the body's reserve of water, sodium, chloride, and potassium. "That is why it is so important to stay hydrated while working outside on days like these," he said.
    Munger said signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, lack of coordination and increased respiratory rate.
    Signs of heat stroke include lack of sweat, dry skin, confusion or reduced level of consciousness, muscle flaccidity and a core body temperature above 105.
    "It is most important is to know your limits and stay hydrated," he said.
    Scott said the most important thing to do for a person suffering from heat exhaustion is to cool the body down by moving to a cooler area, even if it is just shade outside. Sponge the person off with cool water, not ice water, and use fans or any other means to cool the victim, he said. In serious cases, "call 911."
    The National Weather Service predicted more of the same hot, moist weather through the weekend, with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms all week.
    The heat advisory includes Bulloch and surrounding counties and warned temperatures plus humidity could create heat indices of up to 115 degrees, with the predicted heat index for each day being between 105 and 114 degrees for at least two hours each day. Wednesday and Thursday are expected to be the hottest days with a possible heat index of 115 degrees.
    Thunderstorms may briefly cool things off, but the storms may bring brief and heavy rainfall of up to a quarter of an inch and cloud to ground lightning, with possible wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service warnings.
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