High temps blamed for 37 deaths - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

High temps blamed for 37 deaths

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August 17, 2007

Albany-  Two weeks of temperatures around 100 degrees in the South and Midwest are taking their toll, 37 deaths are now blamed on the heat. Four of those deaths happened in Georgia, including one in Albany. Seventy six-year-old Jesse June Irvin collapsed on her back patio and died a week ago. Doctors say the elderly and children are at greatest risk.

Cathy Gilyard enjoys sitting on her porch, even when temperatures and the heat index climb near or above 100.

"It's hot but its not too muggy so you can come out doors and sit as long as the sun is not directly in your face you can sit and enjoy your porch," said Gilyard.

Doctors say that's okay as long as you drink plenty of water before you head out and while you work in the heat.

"Drinking more than the usual 6 to 8 glasses of water and don't drink sweet beverages or alcoholic beverages because those things actually make you more likely to be dehydrated," said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, District Health Director.

The more you're dehydrated the more susceptible you may be to a heat emergency. When the mercury rises, your body sweats to cool you down, but if you're doing strenuous activity and aren't re-hydrating fast enough you could get muscle pain and heat cramps. That can progress into heat exhaustion, with intense sweating, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, but it gets worse.

"When it tips over into that heat stroke which is ultimately fatal, the body has lost its compensatory mechanisms, there's no more sweating, the core temperature rises about 103, and the skin is at that point is very hot and red and warm to touch," said Grant.

"When the temperatures get that high up that's what causes the altered metal status, the delusions, the confusions, the bizarre behavior," said Dr. James Black, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

It can eventually lead to vital organs like your brain and kidneys shutting down. That's why doctors say, it should never go that far.

"By the time you feel thirsty, you're so far behind the curve that it's difficult to catch up so start drinking before you go out and continue drinking even if you don't feel thirsty," said Black.

While the temperatures remain high you should continue to check on the elderly and children, make sure they're getting some time in the air conditioning, drinking plenty of fluids, and replenishing electrolytes even if they're not directly in the blazing sun.

Doctors say when temperatures top 90, fans do little to help cool down your body. They say you also shouldn't take salt tablets unless directed to by your doctor. Heavy sweating can remove salt and minerals from your body, but those are best replaced by drinking something like Gatorade or Powerade.

Friday in Tifton, city officials announced the Leroy Rogers Senior Center will be open from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for those looking to escape the heat.

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