The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 12, 2013

Oklahoma summer: Official issues words of caution for outdoor activity

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Today’s forecast for temperatures near 100 is enough to remind anyone it’s summer in Oklahoma.

Mike Honigsberg, certified director of Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management, is issuing words of caution for people planning outside activities today.

“It’s been hot and humid all week, and many have realized that taking heat precautions is a very good idea, especially those that work outside,” Honigsberg said. “If you have ever succumbed to even a mild episode of heat exhaustion, it doesn’t take much to make you feel bad out there.”

The website of the National Weather Service in Norman gives tips for taking care of yourself and others in heat and humidity.

“Human bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation, by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, and — as the last extremity is reached — by panting, when blood is heated above 98.6 degrees,” the website reads. “The heart begins to pump more blood, blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased flow, and the bundles of tiny capillaries threading through the upper layers of skin are put into operation. The body’s blood is circulated closer to the skin’s surface, and excess heat drains off into the cooler atmosphere. At the same time, water diffuses through the skin as perspiration. The skin handles about 90 percent of the body’s heat-dissipating function.”

Sweating only cools the body when the water evaporates, and high humidity slows down evaporation. Heat disorders can develop on hot and humid days.

The young and the elderly are more likely to become victims, the NWS website reads.

Heat disorders, and what to do about them, include:

• Sunburn: Redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever and headaches. Take a shower, using soap, to remove oils that may block pores preventing the body from cooling naturally. If blisters occur, apply dry, sterile dressings and get medical attention.

• Heat cramps: Symptoms include painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles, and heavy sweating. Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue.

• Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy, weak pulse, fainting and vomiting. Have the victim lie down in a cool place. Loosen their clothing and apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move the victim to air-conditioned place. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

• Heat stroke: Symptoms include high body temperature; hot, dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; and possible unconsciousness. The victim will likely not sweat. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler environment. Try a cool bath or sponging to reduce body temperature. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing. Use fans and/or air conditioners. Do not give fluids.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Health, one of the biggest weather-related risks during summer months is the possibility of a child dying in a vehicle from heat stroke.

Between 1998 and 2012, 13 Oklahoma children died from heat stroke while in a vehicle. Nationally, over half the children who die of heat stroke in a vehicle are forgotten by a parent or caregiver, and 18 percent die when parents knowingly left the child in a vehicle. The rest die while playing in an unattended vehicle.

ODH suggests:

• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle for any length of time, even if the windows are open. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise to more than 140 degrees when the outside temperature is 101 degrees, and a child’s body temperature can increase three to five times faster than an adult’s body temperature.

• Check the back seat to make sure all children are out of the vehicle when you reach your destination.

• If you are transporting a child and it is not normally in your routine, set up a reminder for yourself — a phone call from a friend or spouse, a note on the vehicle dashboard, or place something you need for the day in the back seat so you will check the back seat and see the child before you leave the vehicle.

• If you are transporting children and cargo, such as groceries, take children from the vehicle first.

• Keep vehicle doors and trunks closed and locked. Up to one-third of these heat-related deaths occurred when a child was playing in an unlocked vehicle and became trapped inside.

• Keep vehicle keys out of reach and out of sight. Teach children not to play in or around vehicles.

• Teach children that vehicle trunks are not safe places to play or hide. Show children how to use the emergency trunk release if they become trapped inside.

• If you see a child alone in a locked, parked car, immediately call 911 for emergency assistance. Also, even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.

Pets should also never be left in a vehicle during the summer months.

Honigsberg points out that temperatures are expected to ease a bit starting Sunday.

“Beginning Sunday, if the models are correct, we will see a substantial cool- down,” Honigsberg said. “Highs look to be in the 80s with overnight lows in the mid- to upper-60s. We may even see a few opportunities for some scattered thunderstorms. Later next week, we will begin to warm up once more.”ꆱ