Cooling centers opened due to heat wave

By MAX BOWEN

Athol Daily News Editor

Published: 07-27-2023 5:24 PM

Franklin County and North Quabbin communities have opened cooling centers following the declaration of a heat wave in the region.

The heat advisory began on Thursday and is expected to continue into Friday evening, with temperatures ranging from 95 to 104 degrees.

In Athol, the following locations have been designated as cooling centers through Friday:

■North Quabbin Community Coalition, 251 Exchange St. — 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

■Athol Public Library, 568 Main St. — 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

■Athol Area YMCA, 545 Main St. — 12 a.m. to 9 p.m.

■North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce, 80 Freedom St. — 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

■Valuing Our Children, 217 Walnut St. — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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There are several cooling centers located in Greenfield as well. The list includes:

■John Zon Community Center, 35 Pleasant St., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

■Greenfield Housing Authority’s Community Room, 1 Elm Terrace, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

■ Common Room at Oak Courts, off of Elm Street, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

■Greenfield Public Library, 412 Main St., 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

■City Hall, 14 Court Square, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

According to Baystate Health, more than 700 people, both adults and children, die from the heat in the United States each year. Older adults, young children and people with chronic medical conditions are at high risk for heat-related illness and death.

According to Dr. Seth Gemme, vice chair of clinical operations for emergency medicine with Baystate Health, extreme heat affects the body’s ability to safely regulate its temperature.

“Those at greatest risk for developing a heat-related illness are children under 5 and people 65 years of age and older, who have the least ability to regulate their body temperatures,” he said in a statement, “as well as those who work outdoors for a living.”

Overweight people and others with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or high blood pressure, as well as those on certain medications, are also at high risk.

Tips for keeping cool

As with many illnesses, the best defense is prevention. Baystate Health advises residents to:

Stay out of the heat. Avoid direct sunlight and strenuous activity outdoors. If possible, remain indoors. Those who do not have air conditioning should consider visiting a location that does.

Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors. Stay away from polyester in favor of cotton and linens, which are better at repelling the sun’s heat. Consider wearing sunglasses and putting on a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater.

Drink plenty of liquids. Begin drinking before going outside and, if exercising, drink 1 quart of liquid per hour to replace lost fluid. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, which can contribute to the loss of fluids.

Take it slow. Postpone athletic activity during high heat and humidity. Limit outdoor activities to the morning and evening. Those working outdoors, in addition to drinking plenty of liquids and dressing appropriately, should pace themselves and take frequent short breaks in the shade.

Eat smaller meals. Instead of the usual rule of eating three square meals a day, eat smaller meals more frequently on hot days. Also, avoid high-protein foods that can increase metabolic heat.

Warning signs

Warning signs of an oncoming heat-related illness could include excessive sweating, leg cramps, flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headache and rapid pulse. If these occur, Baystate Health advises to get out of the heat and drink liquids. If there’s no improvement, call your doctor or visit a local Emergency Department. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability, as well as damage the brain and other vital organs.

Warning signs of heat stroke can vary, but may include the following: body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, dizziness, throbbing headache, nausea, confusion, a rapid pulse and, in extremely critical cases, unconsciousness.

“Since the elderly are at greater risk from the ill-effects of the heat, make it a habit,” Gemme said, “to check on elderly relatives and neighbors several times a day to make sure they are safe and free from any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

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