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Thermometer hits dangerous levels

This is a hot weekend, even by Southwest Georgia standards.

Dangerously hot, in fact.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory Friday that everyone should heed. Temperatures are expected to hit 105 degrees today with the combination of heat and humidity driving the Heat Index -- how hot the weather "feels" to a person -- to 108 degrees to 112 degrees.

Even for those who are used to summer weather in our area, these temperatures are health-threateningly hot. It won't take much exertion to create a high risk of illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke under these conditions.

In fact, one of our neighboring states to the north, North Carolina, saw it get so hot Friday that the pavement buckled on Interstate Highway 440, forcing transportation officials to close lanes for southbound traffic on I-440 near the Interstate 40 exit.

Sunday is also expected to top triple digits on the thermometer, though Weather Services officials on Friday had yet to issue a heat advisory for Sunday, too. Fortunately, the weather is expected to "cool off" to about 98 degrees for a high on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the people most at risk for heat illness are those at both ends of the age scale -- infants and children, and those 65 years old and older -- and those who have chronic medical conditions. But even healthy people in the prime of life are not immune to illness and even death when the mercury gets this high.

Some coping tips from the CDC:

-- Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body. Do not take salt tablets unless under medical supervision.

-- Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. They add heat to your body.

-- If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour.

-- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.

-- If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas.

-- If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop. Get into a cool area, or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.

-- Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but they won't prevent heat-related illness.

-- When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you.

-- If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know a senior citizen, check on him or her frequently.

-- Do not leave children or pets in cars for even a short period of time, even if the windows are cracked open.

-- Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets and leave the water in a shady area.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board