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High Heat, Humidity Can Threaten Life

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RALEIGH — With the temperature in the 80s and the heat index in the mid-90s, Special Olympics Summer World Games organizers are very concerned about the potential for heat exhaustion. They want everyone to stay healthy by staying hydrated.

"We've got a number of fields we're responsible for," said medic Joe Pappamihiel. "We watch the spectators and make sure none of them get overheated and have any health problems. And then we're here if they do."

Medics are patrolling the WRAL soccer fields on foot, making sure no one is overcome by the stifling heat. Volunteers are trucking in case after case of bottled water for athletes and spectators. They keep coolers full of ice-cold water, and encourage everyone to drink up.

What problems are they seeing?

"Definitely not getting enough water, heat exhaustion, dehydration, said medic Kimberly Tate. "It's really hot out here. We're just concerned with the fans drinking enough water."

An on-site meteorologist monitors the heat index as it hovers around 95 degrees.

On the field, players are taking mandatory water breaks every five minutes.

Gary Ross, Team USA coach, says athletes are "drinking continuously. Every time we see them it's 'Water!' On the field, 'Come out for water!'"

World Games organizers urged athletes to prepare for the heat months ago by loading up on water. Coaches are serious about following their advice.

"With our coming from North Dakota, it's very important. They are not used to the humidity that is here. So, with the heat and the humidity we have had to fill them up as much as possible," Ross said.

There is a "cool zone", a tent built by CP&L to give World Games volunteers some relief from the heat. Hundreds of them came in to grab bottled water and ice cream, or to cool off in front of the fans.

A soft drink company has donated an unlimited supply of bottled water for the games. If you're a fan or volunteer at one of the outdoor venues, organizers suggest you drink 16 ounces of water every hour.