Feelin’ hot, hot, hot

Published 11:16 pm Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat: Jeffery Hamlin drank water and took frequent breaks while working at a construction site on Carolina Road on Thursday. The heat index is expected to reach 114 degrees today, so people are encouraged to stay inside and drink plenty of water.

A heat wave gripping the nation has sent at least three people to the hospital in Suffolk with heat exhaustion this week.

Heat indexes of up to 114 degrees hit the area Thursday and were expected to continue today.

“We are not seeing huge amounts of heat-related illnesses around the system,” said Cheri Hinshelwood, a spokeswoman for Sentara Healthcare.

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Even so, the Sentara BelleHarbour emergency room in North Suffolk treated three people Wednesday for heat exhaustion. None of the cases turned out to be serious, Hinshelwood said.

The heat wave already has caused a reported 22 deaths across the country. Last year in Virginia, there were 10 heat-related deaths when temperatures approached 100 degrees, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Hinshelwood said the best way to prevent heat-related illness is to stay hydrated.

“That’s your body’s coolant,” she said. “Being hydrated is important.”

However, only water or sports drinks should be used to for hydration. Caffeinated or alcoholic beverages should be avoided, she said.

People should stay in an air-conditioned environment, especially if they are among the groups that are most vulnerable to heat-related illness, such as children, older people or sick people. If you must go outside, plan activities for the coolest portions of the day — before 11 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

Medical professionals urge folks to pay close attention for the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, especially heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and is characterized by symptoms such as rapid pulse, unconsciousness, markedly increased body temperature, skin that is hot, dry and red, and disorientation.

“Emergency medical services should be contacted immediately” if a person is suffering from heatstroke,” Hinshelwood said.

The city of Suffolk is opening several cooling sites today where people can take shelter from the heat if they have no other access to air-conditioning.

The cool-off sites are as follows:

  • The lobby of the Health and Human Services Building, 135 Hall Ave. The site will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • The East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St., will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • And the Workforce Development Center, 157 N. Main St., will open its second floor from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.