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PROFESSIONAL ENCOURAGE DRINKING FLUIDS, AVOIDING OVER-EXPOSURE
As a large part of Texas has begun to feel the dog days of summer, local healthcare professionals are warning the public of the dangers of heat-related illnesses.
As temperatures climbed to 105 degrees with the heat index reaching 111 degrees last weekend, South Texas residents are bracing themselves for the continued scorching temperatures that are expected to break historical records.
A daily heat advisory has been issued throughout the state as the National Weather Service (NWS) warns the public about the dangers associated with strenuous outdoor activities. The daily heat index is nearing 120 degrees, some five to eight degrees warmer than the air temperature, due to dew points and humidity.
With heat levels the highest they have been in decades and with no signs of relief, Registered Nurse Lori Keck warns the public about potential dangers associated with heat-related illnesses.
According to Keck, ten minutes of unprotected skin exposure can result in a sunburn; being outside and active can cause dehydration, increasing the body’s internal temperature. “Heat strokes can be fatal and can cause your brain and vital organs to swell, causing permanent damage,” the nurse says. Keck reports that in 2022 Texas saw 279 heat-related deaths, the most the state had seen since 1999.
So far, the emergency department at Frio Regional Hospital has reported 33 visits related to heat illnesses.
“Seek medical attention for temperatures greater than 104, if you become confused, faint, lose consciousness or are unable to drink,” Keck says.
There are two types of heat exhaustion, water and salt depletion. Although not as serious as a heat stroke, exhaustion is not something to be taken lightly, the nurse says. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress into a heat stroke, which can lead to death.
Healthcare professionals report heat-related illnesses are directly tied to heat index, therefore, when the index is high it is best to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30. One should drink extra electrolyte-rich drinks and avoid fluids containing alcohol and caffeine.
Drinking 20 ounces of fluid two hours before working outdoors plus an additional eight ounces of a sports drink, or electrolyte-rich beverage, is recommended by Physician’s Assistant Mary Moore.
“During outdoor activities you should also be drinking eight ounces of water every twenty minutes to prevent dehydration,” the medical professional says. “People do not normally start drinking until they lose about two percent of their body fluids, so start drinking before you feel thirsty.”
In an effort to prevent fatigue and heat exhaustion, coaches on the playing field have opted to move practices and game times to later evening hours.
“We have the girls practice at the same time the games are, so they become acclimated to the heat,” Pearsall Minor Girls’ Allstar Softball Coach Eddie Cano said last week. “But it is still hot and we have seen girls from other towns get over-heated.”
Athletes have found relief in neck-cooling towels. Made from synthetic polyvinyl material, the towels are able to absorb large amounts of water and pull heat away from the body more quickly.
“With the heat being to this extent, the girls have been staying hydrated, eating right and using their cooling towels to not allow the weather to interfere with their playing capabilities,” Cano says.
The heat wave has not only caused a strain on humans but air conditioner units are struggling to keep up with demands.
According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), higher than normal temperatures could strain power grids that are not used to the unprecedented heat waves affecting the nation.
The summer challenge for energy has shifted from particular regions within the state requiring more power into a wider-spread heat event with a primary focus on support for residential air-conditioning.
The NERC reports energy grids begin to feel a strain at 80 degrees. Texas has reported temperatures over 100 degrees for three consecutive weeks.
Summer heat waves are becoming more frequent, severe and long-lasting, according to the weather service. Overnight relief is minimal, as nighttime temperatures are also rising causing steamy and warm nights.
The sultry weather presently affecting South Texas is tied to a heat dome over Mexico that is extending northward, according to the NWS, which adds that he system is being boosted by warmer-than-average ocean water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
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