Expect highs above 100 degrees: Officials urge caution
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Extreme heat is nothing to play around with.
It can be deadly. And getting yourself out of the heat when it’s too much for you doesn’t mean you’re a wimp — it means you’re making smart health decisions.
The Weather Channel is predicting a high of 104 today, 106 on Saturday, and 103 on Sunday.
The National Weather Service is predicting slightly cooler temperatures: a high of 98 today, 99 on Saturday, and 100 on Sunday.
Nighttime temperatures won’t bring a lot of relief. Tonight’s low is forecast at 66, but Saturday night it will only get down to 71, and Sunday night’s low is expected to be 72, according to the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel predicts lows of 73, 75, and 74.
Whichever forecast is correct, Georgians need to be taking precautions if they are spending time outdoors.
The type of weather most likely to cause heat-related injuries “is weather in which you have little to no wind, high temperatures and high humidity — basically Georgia in the summer,” said Jeff Denney, medical officer and assistant chief with the Coweta County Fire Department.
This weekend’s heat won’t be as bad as some Georgia heat waves have been in the past, because the humidity is lower than normal. There will also be light winds.
But it doesn’t have to be 100 degrees to cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. You can get those problems at lower temperatures, as well.
When dealing with extreme heat, “what is important to remember are your typical things: stay hydrated. Drink small amounts frequently through the day,” Denney said. “You need to be drinking constantly throughout the day.”
You should be drinking water or sports drinks — not caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which have dehydrating effects.
And “if you get to feeling light-headed, dizzy, or overheated, you need to get out of that environment and cool yourself off,” Denney said.
There are three stages of heat-related illness: it starts with heat cramps. Then, if action isn’t taken, it will progress to heat exhaustion and, finally, heat stroke.
In the case of heat stroke, “this is a true medical emergency, and they will die if something is not done for them,” Denney said.
Special precautions need to be taken with those under age 5 or over 55.
People should also be careful if they are taking medications that tend to dehydrate the body — particularly medicines for congestive heart-failure and diuretic blood pressure medicines.
If you know you’re going to be in the heat for an extended period, “it’s really important to address this a day in advance,” Denney said. “Make sure you’re not consuming a lot of alcohol the day before. It will dehydrate you,” he said.
If you start having cramps, “that is a definite sign you are being stressed by the heat,” Denney said. The cramps will often start in smaller muscles, such as the calves and biceps, and then progress to larger muscle groups such as the abdominals and quadriceps. Once that happens, “you are going to go into heat exhaustion fairly soon,” Denney said.
When someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, they are extremely sweaty, and their skin is clammy.
It’s when the body loses its ability to sweat and the skin goes dry that heat stroke sets in.
In both cases, the victim should be moved inside to a cool place, or at least out of the sun, and “wet down with water and fanned aggressively,” Denney said. In cases of heat stroke, ice packs or cool compresses should be placed on both sides of the neck, under the armpits and on both sides of the groin, Denney said.
Another important heat safety rule is to never leave children or pets inside a vehicle.
Cracking a window is not sufficient.
And make sure outdoor pets have plenty of fresh water and a way to get out of the sun.
When preparing to go out in the sun, dress in loose fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible, according to Coweta Emergency Management Director Jay Jones.
To help families prepare for all kinds of emergencies, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency created Ready Georgia, a statewide emergency preparedness campaign.
You can visit www.ready.ga.gov to make a tailored emergency plan for the entire family. There is also the Ready Georgia mobile app, which provides alerts and preparedness information for people on the go.