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State says take extra precautions

July 18, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, AAA Mid-Atlantic and The Humane Society of Washington County urge residents to take extra precautions for themselves and for their pets to fight against heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat stroke occurs when body temperature exceeds 105 degrees. Symptoms include dry, reddened skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma, according to the release from the state department.

Because of dehydration, symptoms of heat exhaustion might include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea or headache.

The department urges those feeling the heat to drink water and fruit juices to prevent dehydration and to wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing. Don't leave children or animals in a car, not even if the windows are cracked, the release states.

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Temperatures in cars during this type of weather can rise to nearly 200 degrees, Amanda Knittle, public affairs specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a written release.

Knittle suggests people run errands in the early morning or late afternoon and refuel cars after dark during extreme heat. If a vehicle has been parked in the heat for a prolonged period, open the doors and windows before getting in to allow time for the vehicle's interior to cool off is recommended.

Sun shields covering the windshield can help minimize the baking effect of the sun's rays on car upholstery, Knittle wrote. It also helps to cover metal safety belts and child safety seats to prevent burning from those objects, the release states.

Paul Miller, executive director of The Humane Society of Washington County, agreed that no animal should be left in a car. Animals can also get heat stroke.

"Bring them into the air conditioning," he said.

If a pet owner believes their pet is suffering from heat stroke, they should "get that animal in cool water as soon as possible" and the animal should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Pets will appear disoriented, pant excessively and have an increased heartbeat, Miller said.

Dogs' gums may also turn a muddy pink color when they are undergoing a heat stroke, he said.

Miller said if it's not possible to take animals inside, make sure they have twice the amount of water than usual while outdoors. He suggests putting water in a dish that won't tip, preferably one that is not metal or does not attract heat.

If animals must be outside, make sure they have ample shade, Miller said. Avoid putting animals near asphalt or macadam because they might try to walk on the surfaces and burn their pads, he said.

If there is no air conditioning in the home, run fans to circulate the air, he said.

Miller asks anyone who sees animals outside who appear dehydrated or mistreated to call The Humane Society at 301-733-2060.

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