ALLIE DOUGLASS | The Sun(from left) Joeshawn Starks, 17, Jordan Tyler, 16, Darrius Spivey-nunn, 17, and Olajuwon Harmon, 17, all Paducah Tilghman football players practice in Noble Park on Tuesday.
ALLIE DOUGLASS | The Sun
(From left) Jordan Tyler, 16, Darrius Spivey-nunn, 17, and Olajuwon Harmon, 17, all Paducah Tilghman football players, practice in Noble Park on Tuesday.
It’s easy to see why people fall susceptible to heat illnesses when sweltering humidity can weigh heavy in the late summer. But an unusually dry heat wave baking the region might have people on the brink of trouble without even breaking a sweat.
With a noticeable spike in the mercury expected as soon as Thursday, meteorologists anticipate several prolonged days of five to 15 degree departures above normal temperatures, rounding out around the 100 degree mark.
While the humidity won’t be a factor due to a dismal lack of moisture, the combination of high heat and low humidity could make for a deceptive outdoors experience, said Beau Dodson, a meteorologist with the McCracken County Office of Emergency Management.
“When it’s muggy outside, you know you’re sweating,” he said. “But when your body sweats in this weather, it evaporates. People aren’t aware that their body is overheating and it can sneak up on them a lot quicker than when it’s muggy outside.”
Compounding the dry heat is its prolonged nature. While the highs are troublesome on their own account during the daytime hours, steadily climbing lows overnight aggravate the situation. When a home can’t adequately cool off during the evening before the next day’s heat, the likelihood of heat illnesses increases, Dodson said.
According to 2011 statistics compiled by the National Weather Service, 58 percent of heat related fatalities took place in a permanent residence, where there was little or no air conditioning. Furthermore, the majority of those fatalities happened in people aged 70 to 79.
“Heat exhaustion is the most common factor we see in the summer, but you also have to take into account as it gets hotter, we see an increase in chronic lung disease, especially with our elderly population,” said Jeremy Jeffrey, a paramedic with Mercy Regional Emergency Medical Service.
“As it gets hotter, it can be harder to catch your breath, but these people are already short of breath, making it that more difficult.”
In the simplest terms, humans perspire as a mechanism to release pent up body heat, but when the body’s core temperature exceeds what can be released, heat illnesses can develop.
Frequently experienced by people working or playing outdoors for long periods of time, heat exhaustion manifests itself from dehydration as a result of excessive sweating and a lack of fluid intake. Jeffrey said people can most readily recognize the illness from headaches, nausea, dizziness, cramping, profuse sweating and a general weakness.
People can treat heat exhaustion by replenishing lost fluids with non-caffeinated or non-alcoholic beverages, moving to a cooler or shaded area, removing tight clothing and applying wet cloths. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can lead to more serious conditions like heat stroke, Jeffrey said.
“That can be very dangerous,” he said. “It attacks the brain and starts shutting down the body, and if not treated immediately will lead to death.”
Simply drinking enough water can be the most important way to stave off such heat-related illnesses, and hydrating before heading into the heat ensures the body has a head start when fluids start to deplete, Jeffrey said.
At least for the near future, it appears the heat is here to stay, so proper considerations for the hot spell are paramount.
“If something doesn’t change, July and August are just going to be a very bad deal,” Dodson said. “The heat stress on our residents will really take its toll.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.