The area sweltered through the recent 10-day heat wave with little adverse public health effects, according to officials in Whitman and Hanson.
In Hanson, Fire Chief Jerome Thompson reported only four heat-related incidents — a call for an outside worker who was evaluated but not transported to the hospital earlier in the week and three people at the Thursday, July 5 fire at JJ’s Pub, including two firefighters who were transported to the hospital for treatment.
In Whitman, data from the Fire Department was not available at press time.
Directors at both communities’ senior centers said they did not hear of any medical problems among their clients.
“All is well with our folks,” said Barbara Garvey, director of the Whitman Council on Aging on Thursday, July 5. “It’s been very uneventful. I have not been requested to be a cooling center so I think everybody was prepared for this.”
“We often make phone calls to those people who may not get out of the house just to check in with them and remind them that an air conditioner or a fan would be good to use on days like this,” said Mary Collins, director of the Hanson Multi-Service Senior Center. “We have our Friendly Phone Caller who checks in with her group of people — just in communication to let people know that we’re here.”
The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and, while the need has not arisen yet, hours can be extended to provide a cooling center in the event of a heat emergency.
Collins also tries to schedule summer programs to entice elders to visit in hot weather. On July 5, the Hanson Senior Center celebrated the “Fourth … on the Fifth” with root beer floats and will host a summer barbecue at noon Tuesday, July 24 featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and a cold drink for $5. A morning karaoke program with Rick Ferreira, beginning at 10:30, precedes the cookout.
“We try to plan events that are cooler in nature than we normally would have just to give people a break,” Collins said. “Our Supportive Day Program, we have to keep them in on days like this. We don’t expose them at all to the heat and humidity.”
Whitman’s Council on Aging is also planning events geared to beat the summer heat. An ice cream social will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 17 with a variety of toppings, including whipped cream for make-your-own sundaes. Tickets are limited and cost $2.
The monthly movie, “Wonder,” at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, July 26 — limit 12 attendees — is also a good way to beat the heat.
Now that last week’s heat wave is over, AccuWeather is forecasting a return to seasonal average temperatures for the rest of July — about 82 degrees — but since weather is changeable one never knows.
People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves, according to the Mass. Department of Public Health. The body normally cools itself by sweating. Certain psychiatric medications impair this critical physiological function. Furthermore, under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough for any of us. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.
To protect people when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense.
The DPH recommends that people:
• Drink plenty of fluids, don’t just wait until you’re thirsty while avoiding alcohol or heavily sugared drinks;
• Replace salt and minerals;
• Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen;
• Schedule outdoors activities carefully;
• Pace yourself and
• Stay cool indoors.
People who are overweight, elderly or physically ill should be monitored as they are at greater risk for heat-related illnesses, according to the DPH.
know the signs
People should also learn the warning signs of:
• Heat stroke — An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally); red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion and unconsciousness. Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. Do not give the victim fluids to drink. Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.
• Heat exhaustion — Heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting and fainting. Cooling measures that may be effective include cool, nonalcoholic beverages; rest; cool shower, bath, or sponge bath; an air-conditioned environment and having them wear lightweight clothing.
• Heat cramps — Muscle pains or spasms-usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs-that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.