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Charlotte Amalie
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HomeNewsLocal newsAnticipating Hotter Weather, Health Warns Public to Take Precautions

Anticipating Hotter Weather, Health Warns Public to Take Precautions

Outdoor workers, the elderly, and some with chronic ailments recently heard heat-related words of caution from Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion. (Photo courtesy of Department of Health)

As temperatures soar across the U.S. mainland, officials in the Virgin Islands say they want to tell residents and visitors how to guard their health. Health Department Commissioner Justa Encarnacion recently offered advice on how to manage the effects of higher temperatures this summer.

Encarnacion spoke during a recent Government House briefing where heat-related ailments were among the topics she addressed. Since that July 17 briefing, a source at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital said efforts are underway to create a campaign to reinforce those messages.

“Our emergency rooms have seen a slight increase in cases of heat exhaustion which occurs when (the) body’s temperature control is overloaded,” Encarnacion said. “… Temperatures will continue to rise and the hottest months of the summer have yet to come.”

Records kept by the National Weather Service of San Juan bear that out. The highest recorded temperature in the V.I. of 99 degrees Fahrenheit appeared three times between 1988 and 1996; twice in late July and once in early August. July 5 marked the hottest recorded global temperature in history, which one weather site says is nudging air temperatures up.

And the San Juan weather service says the hottest day of the year in the V.I. is often Sept. 4.

Health Department Chief Medical Officer Tai Hunte-Ceasar on Thursday explained the strategy behind the upcoming campaign. “What the Department of Health is doing is warning so that people can prevent heat-related illness,” Hunte-Ceasar said.

The Health Department’s best advice is to drink more non-alcoholic liquids. A chilled adult beverage might feel refreshing as it goes down, the commissioner said, but it may contribute to dehydration. Those with certain kinds of heart ailments, the elderly, and those who work outdoors should be especially mindful.

Residents and visitors are also being directed to seek relief from the heat by moving to cooler locations.

Construction workers are being advised to hydrate by drinking small amounts of liquid frequently in order to avoid heat exhaustion. Encarnacion also advised Virgin Islanders to choose liquids that can also replenish elements besides water that the body loses to dehydration.

“ … Chronic dehydration opens the way for a number of medical conditions, which include kidney stones, which are very painful,” the commissioner said.

There was no word from Health, as of press time, about when public health announcements will appear. An administrator at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas, working alongside public health officials, also did not hint at a timeline.

Attempts to reach officials at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix about their plans did not produce results on Wednesday.

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