Saturday, November 22, 2014

Illness risk rises with temperatures

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/28/2013

Summer’s heat is back with a vengeance.

After a mostly mild summer, temperatures are expected to stay in the 90s the rest of the week, reaching 101 degrees Saturday, according to weather.com

Summer’s heat is back with a vengeance.

After a mostly mild summer, temperatures are expected to stay in the 90s the rest of the week, reaching 101 degrees Saturday, according to weather.com

Currently there is no heat advisory in effect, but the Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging people to take extra precautions during the next few days. The increased heat indices can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses and people are urged to take proper precautions, a press release from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management said.

Heat stroke and exhaustion are the most common side effects of warmer temperatures, Darren Hall, ambulance assistant director with Franklin County Emergency Medical Services, said.

“If they’re suffering from heat exhaustion they get muscle cramps, weakness, their breathing becomes rapid and shallow, they perspire a lot and they could lose consciousness,” Hall said. “According to my knowledge there’s been no heat related emergencies thus far.”

Those suffering from heat stroke will experience all the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, as well as more extreme symptoms, Hall said. Heat stroke usually follows heat exhaustion if not treated, he added.

“Heat stroke is anyone that has a body temperature over 105 degrees,” Hall said. “If they’re suffering from heat stroke, they’ll have all [the symptoms of heat exhaustion] plus they could have little or no perspiration. Once they go into the heat stroke phase, they stop sweating, the skin can become red in color from blood vessels dilating from trying to get out to the surface of the skin. They could lose consciousness, the pupils dilate and they can go into seizure activity at that point.”

The elderly, infants and small children are most susceptible to heat stroke or exhaustion, he said, because they don’t have the ability to endure the extreme heat.

“In the past we’ve seen elderly people turn the air conditioner off because they don’t want to pay the electric bill,” he said.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be treated at home if caught early, but if in doubt, Hall said to call 911 or go to a hospital immediately.

“First thing is to get them out of the hot environment,” he said. “If you don’t feel they’ll lose consciousness, give them lots of water with small sips at first, but as they become more hydrated they can start tolerating more water. Put a fan on them with a cool mist — just something to get them cooled down.”

Getting a person suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion cooled down is the best thing to do, but Hall said caution must be taken to ensure a person doesn’t become cooled too quickly or over-cooled.

“We don’t want to make them chill,” he said. “Don’t take them to the other extreme because they’re susceptible to go to the other extreme and go hypothermic and start shivering. When you get cold you start to shiver to generate heat which sends them back to [heat exhaustion or stroke].”

During times of extreme heat, Hall said it’s best to stay inside as much as possible, but if spending large amounts of time outside is unavoidable, there are precautions that should be taken.

“Some jobs don’t allow you to work inside,” he said. “So take lots of breaks, drink plenty of water or Gatorade and wear light colored clothing.”

DON’T FORGET ABOUT PETS

Recognizing the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion is easier for people than it is for pets, Carrie Stockton said. Knowing the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion in pets could save their life, she said.

“Panting is the obvious symptom,” Stockton, registered veterinary technician and medical director at Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, 3173 K-68, Ottawa, said. “Pacing, trying to drink excess water. From there it moves to severe symptoms quickly and we see things like explosive vomiting, diarrhea, up to loss of motor function, unconsciousness, coma, and then death. It’s a pretty swift onset.”

Protecting pets from extreme heat is the best way to keep them from suffering from heat-related illness, Stockton said.

“The number one thing to do to protect animals is to keep them inside,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable in the heat, they’re not either. They can’t take their coats off.”

Some may like to tote their pets along throughout the day while running errands, Stockton said, but doing so could be dangerous if pets are left alone in a car.

“Never ever leave your pet in the car,” she said. “If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s close to 170 degrees inside the car even with the windows cracked and that’s way too hot for any animal.”

If pets must be left outside during periods of extreme heat, Stockton said to take extra precautions to keep pets safe.

“A dog house is not enough because there’s not enough air circulation,” she said. “If they’re tolerant of it, give them a bath, hose them down to keep them cool. Take them to the lake, let them play in the water, but don’t let them over-exert themselves even during play time.”

Any pet chained outside without proper housing, shade and water, or any dog left in a car is being endangered and the police should be called, Stockton said.

“If [the animal] has been treated unfairly, the owner should be responsible,” she said. “If there’s a dog in a car on a hot day, call the cops immediately because that dog will likely pass before the owner comes out.”

If a pet is showing signs of a heat-related illness, Stockton said it’s an emergency and the animal should be taken immediately to the closest emergency veterinary center.

BEAT THE HEAT

There are no designated cooling centers in Franklin County, county officials said, but there are places to go to beat the heat.

“We’re always open for people to come in and cool off when they choose to,” Tommy Sink, executive director at the Ottawa Recreation Center, said. “We’ve never been publicly announced [as a cooling center] we’re just here every day.”

The warmer weather has impacted attendance at the ORC, 705 W. 15th St., Ottawa, Sink said, if anything attendance has been lower.

“We’re running programs for Garfield, Lincoln and Eugene Field elementary schools, so the gym is marked off for half of the day for those kids,” he said. “Most adults, when we get a bunch of kids, they just choose not to come in.”

In addition to the ORC, the Ottawa Library, 105 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, is open to the public to come in and cool off, Terry Chartier, director, said.

“They’re more than welcome to come to the library to stay cool,” Chartier said. “We have a few that do that throughout the summer.”

The Ottawa Library is busy during the summer as it is, she said, so it’s difficult to say if there is an increase in visitors trying to stay out of the heat.

“I suppose we see a little bit of an increase,” Chartier said. “We will be closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Saturday for repairs and Monday because of the holiday, but we’d welcome [people trying to stay cool] during our operating hours.”

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