Kasey Lairsey, 6, beats the heat as he enjoys a slice of cold watermelon after a cool swim in the Flint River at Riverbend Park in Mitchell County Saturday afternoon. Officials say that it is important to stay cool and hydrated during the hot summer days in Southwest Georgia. Temperatures will remain in the 90s throughout the next week.
ALBANY -- Many areas of the country, Albany included, saw temperatures rise above the century mark going into the Independence Day holiday period.
This, in turn, has prompted the Southwest Public Health District to get the word out on the dangers of heat-related illness.
"At least once a year we have to issue something," said Brenda Greene, deputy director of the health district. "This year, we saw record-tying (and breaking) temperatures. Anytime that is occurring, we want to warn people."
Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Knowing who is at greatest risk of heat-related illness, the symptoms and how to respond is especially important during heat waves, health officials say.
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and self-cool. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Heat exhaustion carries similar symptoms, aside from the lack of sweating. With heat stroke, there is often more confusion and a greater chance of losing consciousness, Greene said.
If such symptoms occur, officials advise seeking out immediate medical attention. Meanwhile, get the victim out of the sun and cool him or her with whatever means are available, and if emergency personnel are delayed, call them for additional instructions, officials say.
Heat stroke is a life-and-death emergency.
"It's important to recognize when to seek medical help," Greene said. "If symptoms do not improve quickly, or get worse, it is an emergency."
Older adults, the very young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk of heat-related illness and death, officials say.
"(Older adults and young children) are just not as able to effectively regulate body temperature," Greene said. "Their medications might not allow it (effective temperature regulation) as well."
Areas that have higher humidity could potentially see more cases of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, officials say.
"Sweat doesn't evaporate in humidity, which is part of the body cooling process, so the body might not cool as effectively," Greene said.
Spokespeople at both Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Phoebe North said there has not been any recent activity related to heat-induced illness, with the exception of one case in the emergency room at the main campus last week.
The top protection against heat-related illness and death is air conditioning. For those who do not have air conditioning in their home, it is recommended that they spend time in climate-controlled buildings such as libraries or shopping malls.
Other tips include:
Drinking plenty of fluids, but staying away from those that are sugary or alcoholic because they actually cause a person to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, since they can cause stomach cramps;
Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing;
Trying to limit outdoor activities to early in the morning or late in the evening, when temperatures are cooler;
Never leaving children or pets in cars, even with the windows cracked open.
The National Weather Service reported that the overall high for Albany during the heat wave was 104 degrees, with records confirmed to have been broken in Atlanta and Columbus at 106 degrees and a record tied in Macon at 108 degrees.
Officials at accuweather.com reported Friday that the massive high pressure area responsible for the heat was expected to shift early this week, with the core of system to move westward. The National Weather Service's seven-day forecast predicts that the highs will drop to the 91-93 degree range starting Tuesday.