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Heat exhaustion a threat as 100-degree days linger

With the heat index registering more than 100 degrees and the area under a heat advisory, residents should be cautious when exerting themselves, local officials say.

Three main tips for staying safe in extreme heat are to use short work cycles with rest in between, to maintain hydration and, if heat sickness-related symptoms start cropping up, to get to somewhere cool that is out of the sun.

“With the high humidity that we had last week, when you couple that with the triple-digit weather, it just zaps your energy,” Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Cox said.

Cox and some of the other members of the Pilot Point Fire Department helped first responders from Sanger transport an elderly man who collapsed during a hike with his son, Cox said.

The two men were at least three-fourths of a mile down a trail when the father “went down, and the son was unable to get him out by himself.”

The firefighters cycled on helping carry the man to the trailhead, two at a time. They also needed to widen the path with a chainsaw to be able to move through “shoulder to shoulder,” Cox said.

That day, the heat index read between 106 and 108, Cox said.

“By the time they got up there, because myself and Sanger—more so Sanger— had been working for so long, the guys on their fire engine and their ambulance were just exhausted and they were dehydrated, so the guys on our end took over patient care,” Cox said.

That let the Sanger Fire Department staff recuperate “to make sure that they’re rejuvenated enough to handle whatever next call came in for them,” Cox said.

“You can’t exert yourself that much and not start feeling the fatigue yourself,” he said.

Saturday’s heat index hit 108, Sunday’s was 104, Monday’s reached 110 and Tuesday’s registered at 107, according to the National Weather Service.

With conditions like that, the firefighters in Pilot Point are encouraged to start getting hydrated when they wake up in the morning.

“My morning routine is two or three cups of coffee, but as soon as I’m done with the coffee, I switch to water and Gatorade,” Cox said.

He said working a grass fire call for two hours in the heat caused two of the first responders to get a bit sick.

Even something as seemingly small as responding to an accident can lead to trouble for the first responders on the scene because of the length of time they have to stay out in the heat.

The symptoms for heat exhaustion and heat stroke vary.

In heat exhaustion, a person may feel faint or dizzy, sweat heavily, have cool and clammy skin, feel nauseated, vomit, have a fast but weak pulse and experience muscle cramps.

Heat stroke victims will experience different symptoms, such as a throbbing headache, a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, nausea or vomiting, a rapid and strong pulse and loss of consciousness. Another dangerous sign of heat stroke is when a person suddenly ceases to sweat.

If there is someone nearby in the case of a heat stroke, the bystander should call 911 and work to bring the victim’s temperature down, according to a National Weather Service graphic.

If someone has been out in the heat and they start showing symptoms such as a headache or sudden cramping, they need to take those signs seriously, Cox said, particularly if they suddenly switching from sweating profusely to not sweating at all.

“You need to get out of the heat immediately because you are approaching heat stroke levels and your body is getting too warm,” Cox said. “It’s already depleted its stores of fluid, and you’re in the short range of things turning very bad.”

High school football players work hard under extreme heat. Aubrey High School football practices started at 6 a.m. in the summer in part to reduce player exposure to the day’s highest temperatures, head coach Keith Ivy said.

“We try to get out here and beat the true heat of the day when the heat index is so high and the temperature is so high,” Ivy said.

Athletic trainers monitor players and their access to water at Pilot Point, Tioga and Aubrey High School football team practices. Each team uses mobile hydration stations featuring large tanks, pumps and multiple drinking nozzles on hoses.

“Player safety, without question, is our number one concern,” Ivy said. “We’re going to look after them first and foremost before winning ball games or anything like that.”

Though emergency calls for heat-related health problems generally go directly to EMS and not police, Northeast Police Department Chief James Edland advised people to drink lots of water.

“If you’re out in the heat and you notice yourself getting dizzy or if you stop sweating, my suggestion is to go somewhere cool and possibly seek medical care,” he said.

Staying in the shade can help, Cox said.

“This time of year, the heat just—it shows no mercy and it does not take long to wear you down,” he said.

Staff Writers Baylee Friday and Andres David Lopez contributed to this report.

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