Avoiding the summer heat

As summer heats up — particularly in the North County — the county Public Health Department is warning residents of the risks of heat exposure.

Countywide, about two dozen people have been treated recently for heat-related illnesses.

The county has received a respite this past week thanks to a trough of low pressure, which pushed temperatures below average for this time of year, local forecaster John Lindsey said.

Paso Robles reached a high of 108 degrees July 15, tying the record set in 1961. But on Wednesday, the first day of the California Mid-State Fair, Paso Robles only reached 82 degrees — 13 degrees below average, Lindsey said.

Temperatures are expected to increase today, reaching from the high 90s to low 100s in California Valley. It will be in the low to mid-90s at the fair today through Sunday.

The county will cool off again starting Monday, Lindsey said.

That’s good news for local residents and visitors, a few of whom went to local hospitals recently for heat-related reasons.

From June 1 through Thursday, Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton saw 20 cases of heat-related illness, hospital spokeswoman Faye Fraser said. Several suffered from heat exhaustion.

Twelve of the people were between the ages of 18 and 49; five were children and the rest elderly.

On July 15, several children participating in a Navy League Cadet Corps program at Camp Roberts, located nine miles north of Paso Robles, became dizzy and warm, said Lt. Cmdr. Vahan Manoogian, the senior regional director of Naval Sea Cadet Corps for the Pacific Southwest region. Children ages 11 to 13 can participate in the program.

Five children were taken to Twin Cities Community Hospital about 3:30 p.m. —one by air ambulance, the others by ground ambulance — to be evaluated, he said.

The children were back at camp by 6 p.m. and didn’t experience any other problems, though program staff made sure they were kept hydrated and cool, Manoogian said. They left the area Saturday.

Manoogian said a heat plan had been implemented, in which the participants wore their physical training gear instead of uniforms, participated in indoor activities, and drank water every half-hour to 45 minutes.

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo has treated four or five people in the last 30 days, hospital spokeswoman Megan Maloney said. Of those, about half were treated for other medical issues and then subsequently treated for heat-related illness, she said.

Representatives from Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo said they have not had any recent cases.

“Here in the Five Cities area, the temperatures are in the upper 50s,” Arroyo Grande hospital spokeswoman Anna Scott said Thursday morning. “Today, I wore a jacket.”

While anyone can be overcome by extreme heat, public health officials warn that some people are at higher risk than others: the elderly, very young people, and those with mental illness and chronic diseases.

Symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting.

Heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that can result from heat exposure, can also occur. Symptoms include an extremely high body temperature — above 103 degrees Fahrenheit — red, hot and dry skin; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.

The county Public Health Department hasn’t offered cooling stations for a number of years because not many people used them, said Michelle Shoresman, manager of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

“Most people have air conditioning in North County, or they’ve lived there long enough that they know to go to a movie theater or indoor shopping area,” she said.

How to Stay Cool

The county Public Health Department recently released some recommendations on how to avoid heat-related illness. For more information, call the department at 781-5500. They include:

• Use air conditioning. It is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness and death.

• Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.

• Schedule outdoor activities for early morning or late evening.

• If you must go outside, wear sunscreen and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

• Do not leave pets or children in unattended vehicles.

Staff writer Tonya Strickland contributed to this report. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.