Locals and tourists alike are feeling the heat as above-average temperatures continue to steam the Grand Strand, but summer warmth brings dangers along with sunshine.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration are common during the summer, which officially began today, but heat-related illnesses can be avoided and treated if symptoms occur. Heat exhaustion is the body's natural response to dehydration, which is excessive loss of salt and water through sweat, , said J. Michael Ratliffe, emergency department physician for Georgetown Hospital System.
"This heat exhaustion typically occurs after long periods of heat exposure and occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by heat and the sweat response stops working the way that it should," Ratliffe said.
Some common signs of heat exhaustion are nausea, dizziness, headaches, weakness, disorientation, muscle cramps and fainting. If these symptoms crop up after playing in the sun, there are some actions to take, Ratliffe said.
First, stop all activities and rest. Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages, take a cool shower or bath, move into an air-conditioned room and remove any extra clothing, Ratliffe said. He emphasized the importance of drinking nonalcoholic and noncaffeinated beverages, since they can increase the rate of dehydration.
"It's much easier to prevent heat illness than to treat it once symptoms develop," Ratliffe said.
Prevention includes limiting time in the sun and avoiding the high heat hours of the day. Staying hydrated, no matter the activity level, is also important, as well as wearing light-colored, loose clothing.
Tourists have their own way of beating the heat, however, as exemplified Monday by Chris Riley, a Charlotte, N.C., resident.
"An umbrella and lots of water; that's what you need to stay cool," Riley said. "You've got to keep in mind not to expose yourself to sun too much."
Having experienced heat exhaustion one summer, Riley knows the pain associated with dehydration.
"I ate my food too quickly and drank water too fast," Riley said. "I was crouched in the shade for a few hours with terrible cramps."
"And not these baby cramps - cramps that can put a grown man under the shade for several hours," he said.
Visiting from Detroit, Mich., Trina Thompson doesn't even go outdoors in this heat without a good reason.
"If it's this hot outside, stay indoors," she recommended. "Why would you go out in it unless you're going in water?"
Sanctuary from the summer heat isn't available to all, however, and Myrtle Beach lifeguard Andrew Borzecki knows how to keep cool. Originally from Poland, the S.C. heat isn't a new concept; however, hot days there only last about two months.
"For me, it's too hot," Borzecki said. "I have to sit under my umbrella and drink from my cooler to stay hydrated, and I use a lot of sunscreen."
Though it's still too early to tell if this summer will maintain above-average temperatures, Stephen Keebler, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the next week will be a hot one.
"For the one month outlook, temperatures lean a little more to the hot side for the month," Keebler said. "And that takes into account the past few weeks, which has had above normal temperature."
But little rain and intense sunshine has also caused the heat to rise, and the Grand Strand is more than two inches below normal precipitation for the year, Keebler said.
"We've been below rainfall, and generally below rainfall you're going to be above average temperature and vice-versa," he said. "There's less moisture and more sunshine, and warmer temps go hand-in-hand."
June is down 1.68 inches of rain from the average, which accounts for the recent warm temperatures. Thunderstorms will still be scattered, similar to the past weekend forecast, and any rain is a hit-or-miss chance for the area.
Luckily, July and August may bring more rain since the likelihood of tropical storms increases, Keebler said.
August holds a 12 percent chance of tropical storms, while September increases to 14 percent, Keebler said. June only has a 6 percent opportunity to storm, since late summer is the peak season for hurricanes.
"Even though we're off to a very warm start this summer, there's still a long way to go before we know if it's going to be above-average heat," Keebler said.
Kids at the Claire Chapin Epps YMCA summer camphaven't complained, and are enjoying the summer through the 90 degree weather. A large tent was set up behind the facility, and many outdoor activities are in the shade, said Diane Haffey, childcare director.
"We have a lot of kids under the tent, and we thought it would be a really cool use of space," Haffey said. "We don't really keep them out there for long periods of time, and they all have water bottles so they stay cool."
So far, Haffey hasn't had any problems with heat exhaustion, but she works around the forecast to ensure the safety of the kids.
"If it's a super, super hot day outside we try to keep them inside," Haffey said. "And if we go outside it's usually in the mornings when it's cooler."
Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381.