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Officials warn of heat-related risks as summer sizzles in Forsyth
Children cool off on a recent afternoon at the Cumming Aquatic Center. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH COUNTY — The first week of summer brought steady mid-90-degree temperatures and warnings from health officials about the risks associated with such high heat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, populations most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses include adults 65 and older, children younger than 4, people with existing medical problems such as heart disease and those without access to air conditioning.

Heat-related health problems, including dehydration and heat stroke, can be prevented by taking precautions when outside in the heat, according to Amanda Walter, a clinical specialist in emergency services at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

Walter said staying hydrated is essential, and water and sports drinks are more effective than other beverages.

“People should avoid caffeinated beverages, like sodas and coffee, and alcohol, because those tend to actually dehydrate you,” she said. “If they’re going to be drinking, they should drink plenty of water along with [the alcohol].”

Walter said people should seek medical attention if they see someone who may be suffering from dehydration or heat stroke.

Signs of dehydration include dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and a rapid heart rate. If the person is exercising, they may also have muscle cramps, Walter said.

Another health issue is heat stroke.

“That’s when the body loses its ability to regulate the temperature, and then people become confused and have mental changes,” Walter said. “They may have red skin with no sweating, a rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing and that’s when they should call 911.”

Carla Wilson, manager of the Cumming Aquatic Center, a popular summer destination on Pilgrim Mill Road, said her staff is fully equipped to deal with heat-related emergencies.

“All of our staff are American Red Cross lifeguard-trained, and we have about 10 instructors on staff, too,” she said.

Wilson said aquatic center staff members also take precautions of their own to prevent an emergency. The center provides umbrellas and sunscreen to protect the staff, who often spend the whole day outdoors.

Wilson recommended that anyone spending an extended amount of time outside wear sunscreen and light clothing. She said sunglasses are also important for eye protection, especially near water.

And the weather forecast hints at some mild relief from the heat, with temperatures “cooling” into the mid- to–upper-80s for most of this week.