Heat, humidity ahead call for caution, docs say

Doctors warn about mix of heat, high humidity

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(Emily Rose Bennett/Staff)  CSX employee Jesse McMean works on a stretch of railroad in downtown Augusta on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
(Emily Rose Bennett/Staff) CSX employee Jesse McMean works on a stretch of railroad in downtown Augusta on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

Afternoon thunderstorms are likely for the next week, and, with highs in the 90s, doctors say the heat and high humidity should be approached with caution because people might not be used to it.

The Augusta area already has a moist atmosphere, and an upper-level trough over the eastern U.S. should keep atmospheric moisture high, said meteorologist Dan Miller, of the National Weather Service office in West Columbia, S.C.

“You combine that with daytime heating, and the showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop (in afternoon and evening),” he said. Chances for afternoon and evening thunderstorms will run around 60 percent today, dip slightly with some drier air possible on Friday, and then increase over the weekend, Miller said.

“We have additional moisture coming back up into the region for Saturday and remaining in place through at least the early part of next week, if not perhaps the mid-part of next week,” he said.

In a relatively cool season so far, that temperature and humidity
combination this week could catch up with people faster as they work outdoors, Augusta doctors said.

“With this being the first extended period of heat, it’s one of the early opportunities for people to overdo it on a hot, muggy weekend,” said Dr. Mark Newton, the chairman of emergency medicine at Doctors Hospital.

“It’s the first week of it, so nobody is ‘ready’ for it, which makes it even more stressful, as far as your body goes,” said Dr. Bo Sherwood, the medical director at University Hospital Prompt Care in Evans.

The problem stems from a major way the body cools itself, which is through sweating, said Dr. Bruce Janiak, a professor of emergency medicine at Georgia Regents University.

“Sweat evaporates, and when it evaporates it cools the skin, and therefore it cools the body,” he said. “The more humidity you have, the slower evaporation occurs.”

It becomes worse as the humidity climbs, Newton said. The ability to cool by sweat evaporation “decreases dramatically as the humidity levels get above 90 percent,” he said.

If outdoor work is on the agenda, be mindful that heat might strike quicker than expected because the body is probably not acclimated yet, the physicians said.

Try to “preload” with water or low-sugar beverages and avoid high-sugar colas and caffeine, Sherwood said.

“They tend to dehydrate you more and make you lose more fluid,” he said.

Try to drink frequently while working or exercising, Sherwood said. Take frequent breaks and monitor yourself for signs of excessive sweating, fatigue, dizziness or headache, the physicians advise. Working in the early morning or late in the evening could offer better conditions, they said.

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