Though in most instances largely preventable, heat-related illness and excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States from the period of 1979-2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2001, 300 deaths were caused by excessive heat exposure in the U.S., and each year, thousands more people are treated for heat exposure and other medical issues related to the heat.

Our area has experienced the hottest temperatures of the year over the course of the past several days, with many parts of the region netting record highs in temperatures and heat indices. It’s important to take precautions in this type of weather and help care for those who may be more susceptible to the high temperatures.

According to the CDC, elderly people (65 years and older), infants and children and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat stress. If you have elderly residents in your neighborhood, take a few moments out of your day to check on them periodically to ensure that they are properly hydrated and have air conditioning.

The CDC advises that residents drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. During conditions of extreme heat, if air conditioning in the home is not an option, residents are urged by the CDC to spend time in locations with air-conditioning such as shopping malls, public libraries. If you must work outside, do so in the early morning hours or in the early evening, and be sure to wear light-colored clothing. Know the symptoms of heat stroke, and listen to your body, particularly if you are not accustomed to working in the heat.

Heat-related deaths have already been reported this summer in several states, including two right here in Georgia this week. Forrest Jones, a 16-year-old student at Locust Grove High School, and Don’terio J. Searcy, 16, of Fitzgerald High School, both died in two separate heat-related incidents following football practice at their respective schools.

As bands and local high school athletic teams practice in advance of new seasons starting, it’s vitally important to be mindful of the extreme heat and take steps to prevent any issues. As we hit the home stretch of summer and high temperatures, let’s also remember to help care for those most highly susceptible to the weather and keep in mind that heat-related medical concerns are preventable and should be taken seriously and under advisement.

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