LaGRANGE — The “dog days of summer” seem to have tightened their grip around Troup County, as daytime temperatures soar into the mid-90s and above.
Some days there is little cloud cover with no gentle breeze for a brief reprieve from the heat. Those dynamics, coupled with high humidity and a heat index that makes it feel more than 100 degrees — Tuesday’s heat index was 112 degrees — could spell trouble for those not used to the mid-Georgia summers and folks with pre-existing health conditions.
“We have a big diabetic population and a lot of people with high blood pressure,” said Kevin Ward, nurse practitioner of family medicine at Emory at LaGrange. “People with those issues tend to feel the signs of heat exhaustion a lot quicker.”
Young children and the elderly are also at risk too.
“The elderly can’t get around as well and tend to move a lot slower,” he explained. “They also have a lot of underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat related illnesses.”
It does not take long for people to be overcome by heat exhaustion — or even heat stroke, Ward said.
“People don’t realize how hot it is and they get outdoors and overexert themselves,” he stated. ” … Or sometimes, if someone is a big drinker, alcohol can make heat exhaustion worse. People get more dehydrated doing things they normally wouldn’t do, so they need to limit the amount of alcohol they drink.”
Heat exhaustion is when someone has been exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time, Ward explained. When that happens, a person’s body starts to overheat.
Some of the first signs of heat exhaustion include:
• Profuse sweating.
• Rapid pulse.
Most times, a person is dehydrated and in need of salt.
“They become salt depleted,” Ward said. “They need drinks with electrolytes, like Gatorade or Powerade. If they’re diabetic, then do the sugar free drinks. Water is still very important, but you definitely want to get some electrolytes in someone who is suffering from heat exhaustion.”
Victims of heat exhaustion should immediately be taken indoors and given cool compresses to place on the back of their neck or a cool bath that allows them to bring down their internal temperature.
It is also important to look for signs of heat stroke, stated Ward. This is when the body fails to regulate its temperature back to normal after being exposed to prolonged heat.
Some of the common signs include:
• Lack of sweat.
• Dry or clammy skin.
• Pale complexion.
If people feel these symptoms or notice them in someone else, they should immediately call 911, said Ward.
While summer is a fun time to be outdoors, Ward recommends being smart about when folks plan their daily activities. Avoid exercising or outdoor work during the “peak” daytime hours — typically late morning, afternoon — if they can, he said.
If not, try to get acclimated to the heat first by going outside for small increments of time, stay hydrated, wear loose fitting clothing — preferably cotton — wear hats and do not overexert yourself, Ward said.
There are plenty of days left on the mid-Georgia summer calendar, and these hot, humid temperatures have no plans of retreating until fall.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.