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'Dangerous heat event' on tap

Published July 19. 2011 05:01PM

There's no question it's going to feel like more than 100 degrees for several days this week.

Will the actual temperature hit the three-digit figure?

The National Weather Service is warning of a "dangerous heat event" Thursday into Saturday.

On Thursday and Friday, "heat index values" are expected to be about 105.

Heat index values are determined by combining the actual temperature with the relative humidity. For example, if the temperature would hit 94 degrees and the relative humidity hits 55 percent, the heat index value would be 106 based on a complex formula.

Actual highs are forecast for the mid 90s on Thursday, and the low 90s on Friday and Saturday, with high humidity expected each day.

Joni Gestl, administrative coordinator of the Lehighton Ambulance Association and a paramedic, stressed that the potential effects of the oppressive heat should not be ignored.

For example, individuals living in third floor or higher apartments need air conditioning.

"Heat rises," she said, and noted that upper floor apartments can get very hot. "Heat stroke can set in quickly."

One cause of heat stroke is dehydration, which allows the body temperature to rise.

Although heat stroke can be fatal, it also can be treated. Among the first things to do in treating heat stroke is to cool the victim.

Individuals most at risk to heat strokes include infants, the elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or who are taking medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes) and athletes, and individuals who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun.

Gestl said water emergencies have been prevalent this summer, more-so than heat. However, she explained that the worst heat of the season is forecast to arrive later this week, indicating that heat- related emergencies are anticipated by ambulance personnel.

Swimming and other water activities are ways some people endure the heat.

She urged that when jumping into the water, people should go feet-first and not head first.

"Shallow water diving is a no-no," she warned. "In shallow pools is how people break their necks."

She stressed that you should never jump into water in which you can't see the bottom.

Gestl warned that people need to swim in safe zones, such as those defined at public pools and beaches, and that they shouldn't exceed their limits. She said such unsafe practices have resulted in ambulance transports this summer.

Sunburn can be deadly, especially on children and the elderly, she warned.

"It is a burn," she emphasized. "Sunburn is a burn."

She remarked that sunburn can especially be an issue if the burn goes into deeper tissue, especially in individuals who have other health issues.

Gestl pleaded that individuals not let children or pets alone in a car, even for short periods.

The Weather Channel says a car can reach 109 degrees in just 10 minutes if the outside temperature is 90 degrees. In 20 minutes, it will reach 119 degrees.

One more point stressed by Gestl is that people should drink plenty of water. She said sports drinks are also excellent because they replace electrolytes.

Beer does not work as a rehydrating agent, she said.

She noted that ambulance personnel are advised to carry water with them when they respond to calls that may require the expenditure of energy on a hot day. On a recent rescue from Glen Onoko Falls, in which ambulance personnel climbed the hill on a hot day, the crew members carried extra containers of water with them.

"We needed it," she said, noting that failure to replenish the water in your body that you expend through sweating can cause health issues.

The National Weather Service says it doesn't anticipate the heat wave to end before Monday night.

Accuweather, in its long-range forecast, says the temperatures are likely to be in the 90s again through most of next week.

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