07/18/06 — It's going to be a REALLY hot one

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It's going to be a REALLY hot one

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 18, 2006 1:49 PM

For local residents without air-conditioning units or looking for a way to beat the heat, sometimes the best way to cool down on hot summer afternoons is to find the nearest store.

With temperatures expected to surpass the 100-degree mark this week, many Wayne County residents are looking for ways to beat the heat -- and heat-related illness.

This morning, the National Weather Service posted a special weather statement for Wayne, predicting today as the hottest day of the summer season. Heat indices are expected to range from 100 to 104 degrees.

The statement urges, as have local officials, including Wayne County Services on Aging Director Yvonne McLamb, that those with the highest risk of suffering heat-related illnesses stay inside. In this case, seniors.

"If (seniors) do not have air conditioning, we suggest they go to the mall or even come to our senior center at 204 E. Walnut St.," she said.

Mrs. McLamb added the elderly are at high risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke because age can limit the body's ability to regulate temperature. As people age, she said, they lose some of the feeling in their body and might not always be able to feel the extreme heat, meaning some might get heat stroke without even realizing it.

"Another thing that puts the elderly at such a high risk is the fact that so many are on prescription drugs," she said. "Certain prescription drugs can react with high temperatures and can easily cause heat exhaustion."

There are many ways for seniors -- and all residents -- to reduce the risk of heat-related illness as summer unfolds, Mrs. McLamb added. Drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding caffeine and taking cold showers are a few.

"Instead of being able to perspire and cool yourself naturally, you retain all that fluid," she said of caffeinated beverages.

As a temporary solution, Mrs. McLamb said Services on Aging is giving out 20-inch box fans to Wayne residents over the age of 60, who have no other way of cooling their home and are Progress Energy customers.

The group has 10 fans left, however, Mrs. McLamb cautioned that when temperatures reach the 90s, a fan might not prevent a heat-related illness.

Another at-risk group, the homeless, are seeking refuge from the heat also. Many can find just that at the Fordham House, located at 412 N. William St.

Director Linda Burroughs said all anyone needs to do is stop by and apply at the shelter.

"We will take anybody who wants to escape the heat," she said.

Monday, two people took the house up on its offer.

"All of our beds but one are filled," she said. "But if anyone needs to come in, we can put them on a pallet or on a couch. And we will find space somewhere else if we don't have space."

Ms. Burroughs said while more people tend to go to the shelter during the extreme cold because they think they can take the heat well, heat can sometimes be more dangerous.

Others are opening their doors to residents and homeless trying to cool down.

Berkeley Mall manager Linda Priestley said people are more than welcome to come to the mall for a few hours to get out of the heat. Some already have.

And for seniors, Mrs. McLamb said there are many activities at the Senior Center that will take their minds off -- and keep their bodies out of -- the heat.

"They can come in and watch TV or participate in a class to keep cool," she said.

-- Staff writer Kenneth Fine contributed to this story.