Residents finding ways to beat heat

PARKERSBURG – As the Mid-Ohio Valley braces for the first major heat wave of the summer, area hospitals are encouraging people to take care of themselves to avoid heat-related illnesses.

“We haven’t seen any cases of heat stroke yet, but we encourage people to take care of themselves and follow precautions so they don’t get sick from the heat,” said Tim Brunicardi, director of marketing and public affairs for Camden Clark Medical Center.

Area pools saw large crowds Monday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 32 heat-related deaths between June 30 and July 13, 2012, in Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia where temperatures during that period soared as high as 104 degrees. That was also the same period about 3.8 million people in those states were without power for as many as eight days due to the summer storm.

“We are lucky that we haven’t had a storm of that magnitude this year or the severe power outages,” Brunicardi said.

Annually, about 7,000 people go to the emergency room for heat-related illnesses with most of those patients being 19 years old and younger, the CDC reported.

Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Muscle cramping is often the first sign of these illnesses, according to the CDC.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast and weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; and fainting.

If you think you are experiencing heat exhaustion, the CDC recommends to move to a cooler location, preferably with air conditioning; lie down and put on loose clothing; apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible; and sip water. If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of heat stroke are a high body temperature above 103 degrees; hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; and possible unconsciousness.

The first thing the CDC recommends in the event of heat stroke is to contact 911 because it “is a medical emergency.”

The person then needs to be moved to a cool environment, reduce the body temperature with cool, wet cloths or a bath and do not give fluids.

“Really, the best thing to do is not spend time outside in the heat,” Brunicardi said.

Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System, agreed and said those who do want to be outdoors need to be smart and take precautions.

“Take precautions when you work in heat and can’t avoid it: wear light colored or loose-fitting clothing, take frequent breaks and watch for symptoms,” Offenberger said.

Offenberger advises if someone shows symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, seizures, high body temperature, nausea or vomiting, weakness, generally not feeling well and thirst, that person needs to get immediate medical attention.

“Right now we are bracing for the hot weather,” said Brunicardi. “We just hope people are sensible and stay hydrated if they must spend time in the heat.”