A heat wave weather pattern has gripped the country this summer, resulting in dangerous temperatures. More than 85 percent of the country’s population is dealing with temperatures above 90 degrees and more than half with temperatures higher than 95 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

About 195.7 million people, including Northeast Mississippi, are under excessive heat watches, warnings or advisories, with heat index readings during the prolonged period of dangerously hot temperatures possibly rising to between 110 to 116 degrees.

Everyone needs to take whatever steps are necessary to avoid dangerously prolonged exposure. The immediate concern for individuals and families is personal safety and health. Excessive heat is dangerous for everyone, but especially so for people with compromised health, the elderly, the very young, and those without access to air-conditioning.

School districts, administrators, teachers and coaches throughout the region have learned that a strong dose of common sense must be used to keep everyone safe while playing or working in some of the year’s hottest days.

Most classrooms in Mississippi are air-conditioned, school districts have hot-weather plans and make sure all students and staff members have access to plenty of water whenever it’s needed during the school day.

Reasonable constraints on students’ playtime activities, in athletic drills and all other rigorous extracurricular activities call for monitoring the students involved and the obvious intervention measures for heat, humidity, and heat index.

Everyone can be affected by hot weather and it is important that you take care whenever the temperatures start to rise. A heat wave over a period of days, or even a single day of extreme heat, may cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

During hot weather, it is critically important to make daily checks on older family members and neighbors, especially those who live alone. Remind them to drink lots of water and, if there is a heat wave, offer to help them go someplace cool, such as air-conditioned buildings, libraries, or senior centers.

During extreme heat it is easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat. If this happens, you may develop heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke, which can result in permanent damage or even death, if not treated immediately.

Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.

The best way to survive the heat is to plan ahead for hot days and know what to do during sweltering heat. Hot weather can affect anyone.

Relief will come in Nature’s cycles, but the immediate prospect is for hot, hot weather. Heat can overwhelm quickly, and in worst cases, can kill.

Vigilance and action can prevent harm even in the hottest conditions.

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