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As heat builds, so does the danger

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A.M. toil: A concrete crew in Stonehurst Pointe works to finish a foundation on a dwelling before the heat of the day settles in. Even starting at 6 a.m., the workers quickly began to feel the oppressive heat as the sun rose higher Friday. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
A.M. toil: A concrete crew in Stonehurst Pointe works to finish a foundation on a dwelling before the heat of the day settles in. Even starting at 6 a.m., the workers quickly began to feel the oppressive heat as the sun rose higher Friday. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — J.D. Hobbs knows all of the tricks to staying safe in hot weather.

But even Friday was boiling for the general contractor. As a crew of 20 laid the groundwork for new duplexes at Stonehurst Pointe in west Greenfield, Hobbs said that they started at 6 a.m. and planned to knock off at noon to avoid the heat.

“It was hot this morning at 6,” said Hobbs, who works for Bentley Construction. “I walked out and it was 75 and very humid … It’s a little out of the ordinary to be this hot, especially so soon.”

People like Hobbs are most at risk for heat-related illnesses, local experts say.

Construction workers and others who work outside should be cautious with the weather, alongside the elderly, young children and those who are overweight.

Hancock County remains under an excessive heat warning. The high of 103 degrees Friday set a record for the second day in a row, and there’s no end to the heat in sight. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the upper 90s for the next five days at least.

Dr. Steven Miller of the Northeast Medical Group in McCordsville said people who are most susceptible to heat exhaustion should be especially cautious.

“They need to limit their length of time in the heat,” Miller said. “Your risk goes up the longer you’re out in high temperatures; the longer you’re out in the sun; and the less you’re drinking.”

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include dehydration, excessive sweating, light-headedness, dizziness, muscle cramps, headaches and elevated body temperatures. People with heat exhaustion should take a break, get hydrated and seek medical help if the symptoms get worse.

“Sometimes, they actually stop sweating,” Miller said. “When that occurs, that’s an important sign that things are getting worse.”

Heat stroke is a more severe form of heat-related illness, which can include loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and confusion. Miller said people should call 911 or go to an emergency room if they experience heat stroke.

Pauline Tarplee was playing it safe Friday. The 90-year-old resident of Stonehurst Pointe senior apartments said she’s staying inside almost all the time. While she stepped out for a hair appointment Friday morning, she was looked after by a driver for Hancock County Senior Services.

Tarplee said she’s keeping her air conditioning on but is not turning it up too high because she doesn’t want it to be overworked.

Sharon White, another Stonehurst Pointe resident, was spending the morning chatting with a friend on her porch. The pair comes out only in the mornings and evenings to avoid the heat of the day.

“We were just talking about getting a fan and setting it on the porch,” White said. “The breathing gets to you, when it gets thick and humid like that. It’s hard to breathe.”

Linda Hart, director of Hancock County Senior Services, said it’s important that seniors also have someone check in on them regularly to make sure they’re safe. Most seniors, she said, have air conditioning, but some don’t want to turn the thermostats down because it affects their arthritis.

People who don’t have air conditioners may be able to acquire one. The Interlocal Community Action Program distributes air conditioners to people who have received energy assistance and to those over 65; those who have a child under the age of 6; or who are disabled.

Information on energy assistance and air conditioners can be found by calling the ICAP office of Hancock County at (317) 462-2557.

It’s also important for people to seek shelter in community buildings if they don’t have air conditioning at home, Hart said. People can take a break from the heat in the senior services building at 312 E. Main St., for example.

Meals on Wheels is another agency that keeps an eye on senior health. Volunteers take meals and drinks to seniors throughout the county, and they alert the main office if they see any medical or environmental problems.

Earlier this week, a volunteer discovered a client had no air conditioning or a fan. Director Melissa Ewald said he was referred to another agency that will likely supply a fan.

In addition to seniors, teens and children are also susceptible to heat-related illness.

Miller said athletes practicing in the heat should be especially cautious, as well as children under the age of 4.

Water is key to staying safe, Miller said. People should avoid beverages with caffeine or alcohol.

“Don’t wait till you’re thirsty to drink, but hydrate yourself preventatively,” Miller said.

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