Forest Service cautions: Watch out for the heat!

From Staff Reports

   UNICOI -- With temperatures rising as we head into summer, many folks head to the mountains to cool off and relax. Though temperatures may be a little cooler at the higher elevations, the Cherokee National Forest can still be very warm and humid and visitors need to be mindful of the heat while outdoors.
   "Each summer, hundreds of thousands of people travel to the Cherokee National Forest to enjoy their vacation or weekend outing. Many go there for a change of pace and to get out of the heat," said Watauga District Ranger Candace Allen. "Although the mountains are usually cooler than the lowlands, this may not always be the case. It is not unusual for temperatures to get into the 90s during the summer. We are concerned that forest visitors may do too much and overextend themselves.
   "Heat can sneak up on you in a hurry," Allen said. "Sometimes it may feel cooler than it actually is -- that is when people can get into trouble."
   Forest Service officials offer the following suggestions to summer visitors:
   * Slow down. Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
   * Know the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. With heat stroke, the skin becomes hot and dry and the body temperature is very high. With heat exhaustion, the skin is cool and wet from sweating and the body temperature is normal.
   * Take frequent rest periods in a cool, shady place during activity.
   * Dress for summer. Keep your head covered and wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
   * Put less fuel in your inner fires. Foods such as proteins increase metabolic heat production and also increase water loss.
   * Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Persons who have epilepsy or heart disease, are on fluid-restrictive diets, or who have a problem with fluid retention, should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.
   * Do not take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
   * Spend more time in air-conditioned places to reduce the danger from heat. Shady areas and areas near water sources such as a stream will help while on an outing.
   * Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation much more difficult.
   * Never leave children or pets alone in a vehicle.
   * Know your limitations. Don't overextend yourself. Consider postponing or modifying certain physical activities during extremely hot periods.
   Following these tips can reduce your chances of serious health problems during periods of extreme heat.
   "Summer is an enjoyable time of year, but warm weather can cause serious problems if precautions are not taken. We want everyone to enjoy their outings and encourage folks to take it easy during the summer heat," Allen said.