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Members of the Bemidji High School ninth-grade football team take a water break on a very hot Monday afternoon. — MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

Beating the heat: Make sure to rest, drink your fluids during heat wave

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BEMIDJI — The week before school starts usually slows down for Pat and Larry Mills at the Putt-N-Go.

Not this week.

With temperatures hovering in the high 80s and low 90s the past few days, along with high humidity, the water slide at the amusement park just off Highway 71 has seen a steady stream of customers.

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“We’ll be going right through Labor Day,” Pat said by telephone Monday, taking a few moments to ring up some of her customers eager to cool off. “Oh yeah, the water slide really takes off with the heat.”

Bemidji hit 89 degrees Monday — the same is forecast for today — before temps will begin to slowly inch to the low 80s by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks.

Much of Minnesota and eastern North Dakota are in the grip of a heat wave featuring warm temperatures and high humidity, which has led to fears of heat-related illnesses and injuries. Some schools closed in the Twin Cities area and eastern North Dakota, including in Grand Forks and Fargo, and health officials have issued warnings that people need to stay cool and watch for signs of heat-related problems.

    Many Bemidji area and greater Minnesota schools start after Labor Day, but they are still busy with student-athletes practicing outdoors. And with the warm temps and high humidity, officials are not taking any chances.

Troy Hendricks, activities director for Bemidji School District and football coach for Bemidji High School, said the heat hasn’t changed any practice schedules for fall sports, but coaches and administrators are keeping a close watch on student-athletes.

Hendricks said Monday’s high school football practice was going to be in helmets only. That’s partly because of the heat, but with the team’s first contest Thursday, they had planned to do more game-planning, anyway.

Still, “they are going to be more breaks today,” he said. Another key is making sure players are hydrated. The high temps and high humidity can dehydrate a body quickly.

Drink up, stay cool

Dr. Mark Carlson, a sports medicine physician at Sanford Bemidji, said that hot temp-high humidity combo increases the chances for heat-related problems.

Our bodies generate heat, and we cool ourselves off from releasing that heat through our skin and also through sweating. When the temperatures are unusually hot and there is high humidity, our bodies may not be able to keep up to keep us cool. And if you are outside exercising, or doing strenuous work such as construction, that only adds to the potential for heat-related illness or injuries, Carlson said.

And if a heat waves come on quickly, the body hasn’t had a chance to acclimate to the new temperatures and humidity, he said. Athletes in Florida or Arizona, for instance, are used to exercising in those climates. Add in new conditions, for us that means unusually hot temps and high humidity, and the body needs at least a few days to even weeks to adjust.

And simply drinking a lot of fluids isn’t a cure-all. You have to keep the core body temperature down, so people need to take rests and find someplace to keep cool, he said.

A high body temperature can lead to heatstroke, the most deadly of heat-related illnesses and injuries.

So keep these simple tips in mind if you’re going to be outside working or exercising.

• Replace your fluids: Water is best, health officials say, but other cool liquids will work, just avoid caffeinated beverages and energy drinks.

• Rest: Make sure to take frequent breaks and find someplace cool to rest.

Forecast

Here’s a look at the forecast for the rest of the week, as provided by the weather service:

• Today: Mostly sunny with a high near 89. Cooling into the evening with a high of 65.

• Wednesday: Mostly sunny with a high near 87, with a chance of showers in the evening with a high of about 66.

• Thursday: While it will be cooler, with a high of only 81, there’s a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area.

• Friday: Mostly sunny with a high near 83, dipping down to about 62 Friday night.

• Saturday: A chance of thunderstorms, with a high near 84 and a nighttime low of about 64.

• Sunday: The coolest day of the week with a high of about 79 and an evening low of about 60.

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