Temps nearing dangerous levels

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The calendar is approaching July.

In Alabama, that means temperatures are approaching the mid 90s and the heat index is nearing triple figures.

Record temperatures are spreading like wildfire across the country, and actual wildfires are consuming many western states with no signs of slowing down.

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While Southerners are typically used to hot weather throughout the year, it’s important to realize the difference between uncomfortable and potentially dangerous heat.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, claiming more lives on average each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

Greenville Fire Department Capt. Chad Phillips said there are varying degrees of heat-related illnesses.

“The three stages of progression are heat cramps, heat exhaustion to heat stroke,” Phillips said.

Though cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are commonly confused, Phillips said there is a clear distinction between the two.

“Heat exhaustion is actually the body’s sweating and ability to compensate have been mismatched, so basically you are sweating out more than you’re able to cool off,” Phillips said.

Phillips noted that treating heat exhaustion is a fairly straightforward affair, but that a heat stroke is a true emergency.

“Heat stroke occurs when the body’s ability to control and regulate temperature has failed,” Phillips said.

Some of the telltale signs of worsening heat-related illness are dizziness, feeling faint, pale skin, and lower blood pressure.  Nausea and vomiting may also occur.

Phillips prioritized getting out of the heat before calling for help.

“If anyone has any of these signs or symptoms, they need to first get somewhere cool and drink some fluids, and then call 911.”

Phillips also mentioned several ways to beat the heat.

“Keep yourself hydrated, take frequent breaks, cool yourself indoors and in the shade and wear loose-fitted, lightweight, light-colored clothing,” he said. “These types of clothing allow your body to cool of properly whereas dark and tight-fitting clothing holds in the heat and the moisture and does not let it evaporate properly.”