Dr. Carlo Oller, Medical Director at the Cartersville Medical Center's Emergency Department, said these high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion, a serious medical condition, and heat stroke, a "true medical emergency."
There are different levels of heat exhaustion, ranging from heavy sweating and weakness to possible fainting and vomiting. Heat stroke symptoms include dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness. Oller said a heat stroke can lead to an actual stroke and other medical conditions such as weakened muscles and gastrointestinal bleeding.
If a heat stroke is not treated immediately at the scene, Oller added, it has an 80 percent mortality rate. When treated promptly by emergency medical personnel, the rate drops to 10 percent.
"Three hundred thirty people die a year from heat-related ailments; more than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. It is a big deal. Most people don't realize it," Oller said.
Preventing heat exhaustion and stroke includes avoiding sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest and staying cool indoors with an air-conditioner. Staying hydrated is vital, though Oller recommends Gatorade, or a similar drink, over just water, as the sports drinks will replenish electrolytes lost in sweating.
The NWS also urged people to check on their elderly neighbors or family members and keep an eye on their children. The elderly are more likely to suffer from the high temperatures due to their weakened immune system. Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, putting them at a greater risk of a heat illness.
If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion or show signs of nearing heat stroke, get them out of the heat, whether it is inside or in the shade. Fanning them, wrapping them in wet towels or soaking them in water are the best methods to cool them off. However, Oller does not recommend using ice water. The body cools itself through evaporation; sweat or water evaporates off the skin and takes the heat with it. Ice water does not evaporate quickly. For that reason, Oller suggested using room-temperature or lukewarm water.
He also asked residents to pay attention to signs of illness, and not hesitate to get medical attention.
"If you think anybody has a heat-related ailment, please bring them in," he said.
Northwest Georgia Public Health is encouraging everyone to follow these tips to stay safe in extreme heat:
* Stay hydrated. When working outside, drink plenty of water even if you are not thirsty, and take rest breaks in the shade. Avoid alcoholic beverages or those containing caffeine as they cause dehydration.
* Stay cool indoors. The best way to beat the heat is to stay in an air conditioned area. Finding a place to cool down, at least temporarily, can provide some relief and allow a person's body to recover from higher temperatures. If you don't have an air conditioner, go to a shopping mall or public building for a few hours.
* Avoid sun exposure. Reduce exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest, and keep physical activities to a minimum during that time.
* Use a buddy system. Check on your friends, family, and the elderly. Monitor elderly neighbors and relatives often to watch for signs of heat-related stress. The elderly population and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from extreme and prolonged exposure to heat.