Sweltering heat brings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2000

increased need for caution


Staff Writer

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July 17, 2000 10 PM

As the thermometer rises, so does the risk for death.

This week, temperatures are expected to climb in the low 100s, perhaps hitting as high as 105 degrees Farenheit Friday, according to long-range forecasts.

These kinds of temperatures should be take seriously, experts say.

In 1999 at least 30 children died during the summer months because of being trapped inside a vehicle.

The year before, at least 18 children died from heat stroke when they were trapped in a hot car.

According to a survey conducted last year by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 10 percent of parents believed it was all right to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

That belief can be deadly.

When the temperature outside is 93 degrees the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 125 degrees – even with a cracked window – in just 20 minutes and about 140 degrees in 40 minutes.

Although some of the deaths are because an adult has left the child in the vehicle, there have been reported cases when a child crawled into an unlocked car. More than half of the deaths reported in 1999 occurred when the child was playing in a parked vehicle.

While parked cars can obviously become deadly playgrounds quickly, so can running and playing.

Dr. Patricia Block, a pediatrician with Charles Henderson Child Health Center, recommends curtailing outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

"Our body temperature must be maintained within a very narrow range," Block said. "Since high temperature and high humidity conditions result in ineffective cooling of the body, the risk of heat disorders increases."

If an individual fails to adequately replace sweat water loss, an individual can suffer three major heat disorders: cramps, heat exhaustion – characterized by dizziness, headache, visual disturbances, nausea and vomiting, possible fainting and flushed, moist skin – and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Symptoms of heat stroke are: hot, dry, pale skin with a moist, slushed appearance; high body temperature; confusion; agitation; rapid breathing; racing pulse; lethargy; seizures and prolonged unconsciousness.

But, there are ways to prevent these heat related illnesses, Block said, such as limiting outdoor activity during the hotest part of the day; wearing loose fitting, lightweight, light colored clothing and drinking plenty of water.