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Running hot and cold: Pros offer tips on how to (medically) deal with the heat wave

Say you’re older and walking the rail-trail for fitness.

Or you’re a teenaged entrepreneur, mowing lawns for spending money.

You’re out there, soldiering on and in the glare of that unmerciful sun — when it happens.

You start to feel lightheaded or nauseous. You become soaked in sweat, and you might even be slurring your words at this point.

Heat stroke.

Or, heat exhaustion, at the very least.

Either way, it’s now a medical emergency.

As of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, the mercury in the thermometer in Morgantown was sitting at 84 degrees — and with a high of 95 expected, things were just warming up, literally.

That’s why physicians, athletic trainers and other professionals are urging people to be cautious and to use common sense, while Morgantown and much of the region continues to broil under the first serious heat wave of the season.

Hot time in the town

A heat advisory remains in effect through Friday evening for the region, in fact, and Trish Murray, who directs emergency services at Mon Health Medical Center, wants you to heed the warning, for health’s sake.

Never mind, she said, those people whose work in construction or other occupations of that ilk put them in all kinds of meteorological conditions — no matter if it’s a heat advisory in summer or a wind-chill warning in winter.

“Heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, can sneak up on you,” Murray said.

If you are outside, and you aren’t at the lake or poolside, you of course want to find the shade, if you can, she said.

Drink water or sports drinks aplenty.

Whatever you do, she added, avoid alcohol and caffeine, since both dehydrate the body.

Don’t try to shake off the symptoms if you find yourself feeling overheated. That’s when people end up in the back of an ambulance.

You don’t have to lay off the above activities, she said: Just schedule them in the morning or early evening.

Wear light-colored clothing that’s loose and comfortable, Miller advised. Don’t be shy about taking breaks.

Put it on ice

The key, as she said, is staying hydrated.

In the meantime, organized sports don’t care about the weather.

Practices are held and games are played.

Samantha Scarneo-Miller knows all about athletes dropping from heat.

Call it a matter of “uncompensable heat stress,” the director of graduate athletic training program in WVU’s School of Medicine said.

In other words, the body in that circumstance is no longer able to cool itself.

Which could be fatal, she explained — especially if one reaches a core temperature of 105 degrees.

That reading is the threshold for the internal breakdown that starts with irritability, dizziness, confusion and altered consciousness, she said.

“The blood in our body wants to try to cool us as fast as possible,” Scarneo-Miller said.

“As such, it is moving a lot more blood to our extremities and therefore other vital organs are not getting as much blood supply,” she continued.

“This is why we think people get dizzy.”

If you’re out and see someone who might be suffering from a heat stroke or heat exhaustion, call 911, she said.

And, if you can, hit the ice and the cold water.

A garbage can half-filled with water — and as much ice as possible — is a quick, effective way to help a person get back into balance, she said.

From one extreme — to the other extreme

In the meantime, the region, ironically, was still working Wednesday to get back into balance — because of a situation with water the afternoon before.

A fierce, fast-moving storm toppled trees and knocked out power to more than 11,000 homes in the Morgantown area.

Record-breaking heat projections are expected to rule the rest of the week, AccuWeather said, with a high of 95 expected for today — to go with calls of 98 Friday and Saturday.

Thunderstorms could move in Sunday, the forecaster said.

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