Precautions urged as temps rise

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 10, 2007

With temperatures soaring near 100 degrees this week, areaofficials are urging residents to take precautions against the heatfollowing a Brookhaven case of heat exhaustion and the deathThursday of a high school football player in Mount Olive.

The heat has frequently combined with high humidity to boost theheat index to more than 110 degrees, according to the NationalWeather Service. The weather service has issued a heat advisory forMississippi until 8 p.m. Friday.

Lincoln County reported its first heat-related case Thursdayevening, according to JoAnna Sproles, a spokeswoman for King’sDaughters Medical Center.

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Sproles said a 33-year-old man working outside in the yard at aresidence was transported to the emergency room of the hospital at7:20 p.m.

“He was treated for heat exhaustion and cramps,” she said.

Sproles said the man had apparently been taking precautionsagainst the heat, but was affected nonetheless.

“He did report he was consuming large amounts of water,” shesaid.

Debbie Fortenberry, assistant administrator and director ofnursing at Lawrence County Hospital, said residents there have sofar been able to keep cool enough to avoid a visit to thefacility.

“We’ve not had any cases of heat exhaustion or anything likethat in the past week,” she said.

The heat also prompted Chancery Court Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr.,of Grenada, to issue a controversial order banning schools in thesix north Mississippi counties of District Three from allowingchildren to practice football and other outdoor activities between9 a.m. and 7 p.m. because of searing temperatures.

Lundy made the ruling Thursday after three deaths in the statethis week were attributed to extreme temperatures, including thedeath of a Mount Olive football player who collapsed from heatstroke while practicing earlier that day.

Coaches in this area said they are taking what precautions theycan.

“We are taking water breaks every 10-15 minutes. Trying to restour guys in the shade,” said Wesson head football coach TommyClopton. “We even provide ice packs and ice towels to put on theirnecks to cool them down.”

Approximately 400 Americans die each year due to heat, accordingto the Centers for Disease Control.

The weather service calls it the number one weather-relatedkiller, causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning,tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and extreme cold from 1994 to2003.

“Everyone is at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees,but the elderly and the very young are the most susceptible to heatand heat-related illnesses,” said Layla Case, executive director ofthe Mid-South Mississippi Chapter of the American Red Cross, whichoversees Lincoln, Lawrence and Pike counties.

Melissa Smith, disaster services director for the Mid-SouthChapter, said if people are unable to check on an elderly residentor someone without air-conditioning, they can call her at (601)833-2771.

“I will either make arrangements to have them checked on or doit personally,” she said.

According to the Red Cross, there are three primary heat-relatedillnesses:

* Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused by heavyexertion. They are the least severe form of heat injury and canprovide early warning that the body is struggling with theheat.

* Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavilyor work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost throughheavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing adecrease in the flow to vital organs that results in mild shock.Body temperature will remain near normal, but can escalate as thebody nears heat stroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include nausea,dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating or a lack of sweat,and headaches.

* Heat stroke, also called sunstroke, can be life-threatening.The body’s temperature control system stops producing sweat and thebody temperature can rise so high that brain damage or death canresult if the victim is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot,red and dry skin, changes in consciousness, a rapid and weak pulse,rapid and shallow breathing and a body temperature that can soar ashigh 105 degrees.

Overheated victims should be moved to a cool place, given coolwater to drink and ice packs or cool cloths should be applied tothe skin, according to the Red Cross. If a victim refuses water,vomits or loses consciousness, immediate medical assistance shouldbe summoned.

Smith also urged residents to ensure their animals have plentyof fresh water and urged them not to take pets with them if theymust leave them in the vehicle while attending to business orsocializing.