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Lots of ice is needed to deal with heat

July 30, 2002|by CAILIN MCGOUGH

cailinm@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Business at Reddy Ice in Martinsburg has been "very hectic" this summer, and the recent hot, sticky weather isn't helping to slow things down.

Plant Manager Ron Humphries said sales have picked up in the last few days, as high temperatures and humidity made for a heat index of more than 105 degrees.

Business has doubled and tripled over the course of the summer, but Humphries said the plant's employees don't seem to mind.

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"It's a cool job. They don't mind the hours here because they're working through the hottest part of the day in a cool environment," he said.

Until the heat breaks, officials are reminding the public to keep cool and hydrated to prevent heat-related illness.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Monday issued a heat advisory after the National Weather Service forecast a heat index of at least 105 degrees in every Maryland jurisdiction except Garrett County.

In the Tri-State area, temperatures reached 93 degrees with a heat index of 101 Monday. Temperatures today are expected to reach 92 degrees with a heat index of 96 in Hagerstown.

Weather observer Pat McCusker of Clear Spring said recent temperatures are on par with the rest of the summer.

"It's not as hot as the three days in June where it reached 98, 100 and 101," McCusker said.

However, there is a lot more humidity, which makes it feel like it is between 110 and 112 degrees outside, he said.

The Health Department urged people to take precautions to reduce the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Officials with area hospitals said they have not seen an increase in heat-related illness, something Edie McGoff of City Hospital in Martinsburg attributes to education efforts.

"Maybe people are just paying more attention to weather and drinking more fluids," McGoff said. "I would have expected to have more people."

Washington County Hospital also has not seen an increase in heat-related illnesses in the last few days, Clinical Manager Staci Moser said.

Usually the hospital sees an increase during outside events, Moser said.

Waynesboro Hospital treated a patient Sunday who suffered a heat-related problem during a softball game, Dr. Kathryn Reihard said, but otherwise has seen little increase.

However, temperatures are usually high during August and the hospital often sees a surge of heat-related health problems during that time, Reihard said.

"If the heat remains this way, I would expect to see increases as practices for school sports get into full swing," Reihard said.

After strenuous physical activity, people can suffer from heat cramps, which are characterized by painful muscle spasms. This can be treated by cooling down, resting and drinking lots of fluids, Reihard said.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating, paleness and fatigue or headache and nausea, McGoff said. If left untreated, it can progress into heat stroke, which is characterized by red, hot, dry skin.

Heat stroke is a "true medical emergency," which requires aggressive treatment with IV fluids and cooling measures to lower body temperature, Reihard said.

Those most at risk for heat illnesses include infants and children up to 4 years old, those 65 and older and people who are overweight or who overexert themselves during work or exercise, McGoff said.

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