Doctors concerned heat could make people sick

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Twelve-year-old Frandy Lora isn’t a big fan of cold weather. So he’s basking in the temperatures baking the region this week.

“Since it is Massachusetts you do experience the very cold,” Lora said. “So I enjoy it as much as I can when it’s hot.”

And it most definitely was hot in Larry-town Wednesday, with the temperature soaring to 94 degrees by early afternoon.

That had Lora and others looking for relief -- and fortunately they didn’t have to look far. Just up the street from their apartment complex, the city’s Public Works Department opened up a hydrant on Island Street -- one of several efforts to help residents cool off.

“I like how they let the public in this apartment building enjoy that here,” Lora said. “I think it’s very nice.”

Nice -- and necessary. Cooling off has become not just a matter of comfort, but something critical for health.

“Certainly anytime something like this happens, we do see folks who are kind of overcome by the heat,” said Andrew Eyre, MD, an Emergency Department physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It can really affect anyone. Especially when it gets so hot for so many days.”

Eyre said one of the biggest mistakes people make in the heat is assuming just the opposite -- that heat exhaustion can’t happen to them. Still, the most vulnerable, he said, lie at opposite ends of the human lifespan.

“In addition to taking care of yourself, take  care of the younger folks, the older folks in your lives and then the folks who don’t necessarily have the best health and have some chronic medical conditions,” Eyre said.

Thousands of young people in Massachusetts are off at summer camps this sweltering week.

At the YMCA’s Metrowest Outdoor Center counselors are watching for signs kids have had enough.

“Our nurse hands out a flyer every morning to remind staff what to look for in kids which could put them in a heat emergency,” said Alan Gillis, Operations Director for the Hopkinton facility. “Having two nurses on site has been a huge benefit for us. They have their own golf cart and they’re just going around the different areas of camp making sure the activities they see fit the heat.”

Appropriate activities include swimming, indoor rock-climbing and anything that can be done in the shade.

“With 122 Acres, we have a lot of shaded spots,” Gillis said. “We’ll get the kids into shaded areas, slow down some of our big activities.”

That means the soccer fields at the camp are virtually empty -- while the shaded pavilions are full.

Mandatory water breaks are also key, Gillis said, with the camp distributing five-gallon jugs throughout the day.

Would Gillis rather have cooler weather? Yes, he said. But what takes the sting out of the brutal temperatures, he said, is seeing kids enjoying a somewhat normal summer.

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