Five questions with Mike Grabowski

Aiken Public Safety Officer Mike Grabowski is a former paramedic for Aiken County.


1. What is the difference between heatstroke and heat exhaustion?

Heatstroke is bad. Usually the body temperature is over 105 degrees. You stop sweating, you're unconscious, your insides start to melt and coagulate and congeal.

Heat exhaustion can develop after long exposure to high temperatures and not enough fluids. Your core temperature is going to be about 103 degrees, and you're sweating heavily.

If you're sweating, you're still in OK condition. If you're not sweating, you've got a serious medical emergency.

2. What are the warning signs of heat exhaustion?

Your mental status is going to be irritable. You'll make poor judgments, experience nausea, headache, dizziness, tiredness, heat cramps with very severe pain in the arms and legs, muscle fatigue. They could pass out.

Get out of the heat, drink some water and cool down. With heat exhaustion, you at least want to go to the hospital to be checked out.

3. What can a person do to prevent heatstroke or heat exhaustion?

Hydrate, spend less time in direct sun, take breaks. No one can withstand eight hours in direct sun, especially with the heat we're having right now.

4. What should a person do if they see someone suffering from a heat illness?

You want to cool them down as quickly as possible. Get packs of ice and put around their armpits, around their neck and in the femoral area. That's where the major arteries are, where the blood is flowing to. Get them in a shaded, cool place, fan them. If they're conscious enough, let them drink Gatorade or at least water.

5. What part of the population is more prone to heat-related illnesses?

The elderly, alcoholics. Right now, the biggest concern would be the elderly. A lot of them are on fixed incomes and they're trying to conserve, so they won't turn on their air conditioner. You go into a lot of their houses and it's boiling.

If they don't have air conditioning or it's broken, they can go to cooling stations such as the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center or the Smith-Hazel Recreation Center.

Young children you want to watch, especially infants, because they can't tell you they're hot.