Heat wave causes health concerns

Posted July 24, 2010
Updated July 25, 2010

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— Physicians are concerned about heat-related illnesses as North Carolina swelters through more hot, humid weather.

The Triangle saw a high temperature of 100 degrees Saturday. The heat index, which indicates how hot it actually feels, was 114 degrees.

The heat index is being driven by high humidity, which can also cause heat-related health problems. High humidity keeps perspiration from evaporating, preventing the body from cooling down. That leads to heat-related illnesses.

Two people were treated for heat-related illnesses Saturday at the state Farmer's Market, according to vendors.

"She turned white and she barely had a pulse and that was really scary," said vendor Caroline Barefoot, who saw a woman being taken away in an ambulance after suffering from the heat.

According to State Capitol Police, one person suffering from heat-related illness was transported to a hospital from the Farmer's Market. The identity of the victim hasn't been released.

Heat doesn't stop shopping at Farmer's Market Shoppers brave heat at Farmer's Market

The heat, however, didn't keep people from shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmer's Market.

"We tried to wait until it cooled down, but I don't think it's going to cool down today. No time soon anyway,” Farmer's Market shopper Mary Parker said.

Dr. Scott Fairbrother, an emergency room physician at WakeMed in Raleigh, said people should be mindful of anyone who appears to be confused or disoriented during extreme heat conditions.

“If they have slurred speech, if they’re a little sluggish when they walk, if they look like they’re stumbling, if they’re not answering questions appropriately, that’s a big red flag,” he said.

Those are symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat fatigue that can strike anyone working or simply outside in the heat for a long time, Fairbrother said.

Experts suggest putting yourself on a liquid-intake schedule as early as possible if you know you're going to be out in the heat.

"Start hydrating the day before," said William Frederick, chief of the Garner Rescue and EMS squad. "Don't start a few minutes before you come out. Do it the day before."

Doctors said the most serious illness in hot weather is heat stroke, which can be deadly. Symptoms include lack of sweat, kidney failure and other organs shutting down.

Dangerous levels of heat will continue through the weekend. There's a chance of isolated evening storms.

Sunday could be even hotter, with a high around 103 degrees in the Triangle. The heat index could reach 115 degrees.

"The predicted high of 103 will beat a record of 98 set back in 1949," WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner said.

The threat of dangerous-causing heat has prompted the Durham Bulls to push back Sunday's game time. The game will start at 7:05 p.m., two hours later than originally scheduled. Gates open at 6 p.m., and the Principal Financial Group Family Fun Fest will run 4-7 p.m.


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