Residents of Putnam County may want to crank up their air conditioners because it may be hot now, but it's only going to get worse.
With the National Weather Service calling for an excessive heat watch and the Department of Homeland Security issuing a heat emergency, residents are advised to keep indoors in the cool and avoid as much physical activity out of doors as possible. But for those who are brave enough or have to bear the elements, there are some things they may want to be wary of when determining if they've pushed their body too far.
"True heat emergencies result when air temperatures are such that the body's cooling mechanisms cannot keep the core temperature near normal ranges," Kraig Kinney, executive director of Putnam County Operation Life, said.
Several different types or signs of heat-related emergencies exist. One of the least severe is heat cramps.
Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe form of heat emergency, they can be a warning sign that a heat emergency is developing.
To treat these symptoms, one should lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish with fluids such as water or sports drinks. Caffeine or alcoholic beverages will likely make the condition worse.
Next in severity would be heat exhaustion. This typically occurs when people exercise or work in hot, humid weather conditions that can result in a significant loss of body fluids through heavy sweating. Blood flow increases to the skin as the body attempts to cool. This results in decreased blood flow to vital organs. Heat exhaustion is, thus, an early form of shock.
A few symptoms of heat exhaustion are cool, pale or flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness and exhaustion.
Some measures to take when dealing with heat exhaustion would be to get the person out of the heat and into a cool area, remove or loosen tight-fitting clothing, apply cool wet cloths to the skin, and if the person is conscious, give him or her cool water to drink. The person should also seek immediate medical attention.
Then there is heat stroke or sunstroke. Heat stroke is the progression of a heat emergency to the point of the body being in shock and is therefore a life-threatening emergency. The body's cooling mechanisms fail and the body no longer is able to cool itself.
Some signs and symptoms of heat stroke are rapid, shallow breathing, rapid weak pulse rate, hot, dry skin and altered mental status.
In the event of heat stroke, the patient should be moved to a cool place immediately. The patient should be immersed in cool water or cool cloths can be applied to the skin. Medical attention should also be sought immediately.
And with temperatures still rising this week, and the upcoming fair and numerous outdoor events that come with it, Putnam County should be especially careful.
Residents, however, can take comfort in knowing that if an emergency does occur, Operation Life and other medical facilities are prepared to help.
"From the Operation Life perspective, we are prepared to treat any heat emergencies with cool ambulances, IV solutions and transport to a medical facility," Kinney said.
"We generally see about a run every day during extreme heat. We do get people that pass out from the heat, which is a dangerous medical condition. But not all the emergencies are directly related to being 'overheated.' The heat and humidity can cause asthma and other problems as well to act up. Heart problems can become an issue as well due to the stresses on the body.
"People should heed the warnings," Kinney stressed, "and take precautions including avoiding excessive exposure to heat and drinking plenty of fluids."