Be careful in sweltering heat

Published 7:55 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

With temperatures expected to soar above the century mark for the next two days, residents of the Roanoke-Chowan region are urged to take caution.

Residents in Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties can expect temperatures to reach 100 degrees today (Saturday) and tomorrow. Today’s heat index values could be as high as 109.

With those dangerous temperatures, experts are suggesting caution for the safety of both people and pets.

Dr. Phil Harris, Chief of Staff at Bertie Memorial Hospital and Medical Director of Cashie Medical Clinic, urged people to stay out of the heat when possible and drink lots of fluids.

Harris said people who regularly worked outdoors were more equipped to handle the heat, but suggested those who normally work inside be extremely cautious if working outdoors this weekend.

“A good rule of thumb is to get most of the work done outside before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m.,” Dr. Harris said. “If you have to be outside in the hotter part of the day, I recommend drinking about eight ounces of water or fluid every 15 minutes.”

Dr. Harris said it was important that those who are working outside mowing lawns or working in flowers or gardens needed about two liters of fluid every two hours.

He also suggested that those who are drinking water regularly because of the heat should mix in Gatorade or a sport drink because of the possibility of water toxicity.

“For every three glasses of water, drink a glass of Gatorade,” he said. “You can drink too much water.”

Dr. Harris said drinking Coke, Pepsi or tea would not be beneficial either because the sugar in the sugar in those drinks would actually cause someone to dehydrate if they were consumed at the levels required to keep a person hydrated.

Those working outside should take precaution immediately if they stop sweating, begin to get chills or began to get hazy.

“If you’re outside in this heat and not sweating, there is something wrong,” Dr. Harris stressed. “You need to get inside, get in the shade and drink water.”

If after 15 minutes of rest, the symptoms persist, medical attention should be sought.

As dangerous as the heat is for people, it is also dangerous for pets.

Sue Current, a Veterinary Technician for the Gates County Animal Clinic, said it was important for people to take care of their pets during this extreme heat.

“Make sure they can go into the shade,” she said. “Sometimes animals will even dig a hole to keep themselves cool.”

Current said it is preferable for animals to be brought inside when possible, but there were precautions that could be taken if that wasn’t achievable.

She suggested keeping fresh water for the animal and to possibly place a child’s pool filled with water so the animal can lie in the water.

If an animal does get overheated, it will begin panting and could also show other signs such as dizziness, vomiting, weakness or even collapsing.

“If you think the animal is getting overheated, don’t immerse them in cold water because it could be too much of a shock to their system,” Current said. “They can be immersed in tepid water which will help cool them off.”

Current said pets could also have rubbing alcohol placed on their pads because it would reduce heat, but cautioned to make sure there were no open wounds before doing so.

“If the animal is lethargic, unable to walk or having excessive breathing problems, phone your veterinarian immediately,” Current said.

Those wishing to brave the heat by staying indoors should do everything they can to help maximize their air conditioning units, according to Tommy Bryant of HT Bryant Plumbing and Repair.

“Change your filters to make sure you are getting the maximum performance from you air conditioner,” Bryant said. “Also, I suggest keeping the blinds closed to keep as much sunlight as possible out so it makes the air conditioner work easier.”

Bryant said he would suggest not cooking, especially large meals, during the hot part of the day.

“It’s a good time to eat sandwiches or go out to eat,” he said. “Anything that helps keep extra heat out of the house is preferable.”

Bryant also suggested using ceiling fans or other devices that keep air circulating.