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Local health officials urge caution as temperatures are expected to approach triple digits

A crowd of people walk across a bridge to Belle Isle.
Crixell Matthews
With temperatures expected to be higher than 90 degrees through Sunday, local health officials are urging people to be cautious about the time they spend outdoors. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Local health officials are warning against the dangers of heat-related illnesses as weekend temperatures in Central Virginia are expected to near triple digits.

When temperatures edge above 90 degrees — as they’re anticipated to do through Sunday — hospitalization rates for heat-induced illnesses tend to rise, according to Cat Long, a media representative with the Richmond & Henrico Health Districts.  

She advised residents to stay indoors when possible. However, if you plan to be outside, Long said, people should be aware of the “the importance of scheduling outdoor activities carefully and staying hydrated, and knowing the signs of heat-related illnesses.” 

While symptoms can start small with light dehydration and muscle cramps, more serious health issues could arise if an individual is not brought to a cooler area and rehydrated. If left untreated, a person could suffer from heat exhaustion — which can include symptoms like clammy skin, nausea and feeling faint, Long said.

She added that some of “those minor symptoms tend to be something that can go away when you move somebody to a cooler place. But again, if things start to get worse or if they continue to persist after you've moved out of the heat ... any of those things would indicate an emergency that you would need to call 911 for.” 

Although the elderly generally are considered to be at greater risk of heat-related illness than other demographic, data from the Virginia Department of Health showed that young people are just as likely to be susceptible to the effects of high temperatures.  

“Heat-related illness can impact anybody of any age,” Long said. “So, it is definitely a concern for senior citizens. And I think because it's a concern for senior citizens, perhaps more senior citizens are aware of the risks associated with heat-related illness.” 

Long also advised that area residents should pay close attention to their pets and young children, who might not be able to voice discomfort in the heat.  

Several local governments operate public cooling stations for those who need to escape the summer heat, including Richmond, Hanover, Henrico and Petersburg.