Dry days with temps in 90s to stick around

The heat wave that has overtaken the Altoona area is expected to last through Friday.

Daily high temperatures are expected in the low 90s with the heat index approaching 100 degrees, said AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines.

The next few days are expected to be mostly dry.

“In general when you have high heat and humidity, there is a chance thunderstorms could pop up in the late afternoon or evening. Those storms are expected to be few and far between. Most will not see anything,” Kines said.

A cold front is expected to come through the area over the weekend and provide some relief, Kines said.

The hot temperatures are good for local businesses who sell air conditioning units.

“It usually takes a couple of hot days in a row before sales really kick in, but we have been seeing an increase in sales of air conditioners and fans,” said Jim Michael, store manager at Lowe’s Home Improvement on McMahon Road. “We are also seeing a pickup in sales of watering hoses and sprinklers. It takes a couple of real hot days, but then it busts loose.”

While good for business, the hot weather is not so good for senior citizens.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States.

“The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat,” said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network.

Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature; they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat; and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration, Huber said.

There are two types of heat illness: non-exertional heat illness and exertional heat illness.

“Non-exertional heat illness occurs in the elderly, the very young and people with other risk factors, and those taking certain medications that narrow the blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), certain blood pressure medications such as beta blockers, diuretics such as Lasix, or medications that treat psychiatric symptoms such as antidepressants, lithium, stimulants and antipsychotics,” said Dr. Linnane Batzel, chief medical officer at UPMC Altoona, in a statement. “Alcohol use also causes an increased sensitivity to heat illness.”

Exertional heat illness is when people work or play sports intensely in a hot environment.

Because the body cools itself with sweating, dehydration is one of the first problems encountered with heat exposure. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, thirst, generalized weakness, decreased urination, lightheadedness, nausea and confusion.

Risk factors for dehydration include a poorly ventilated living area, inability to access adequate fluids, medications that can increase fluid loss and reduce the body’s ability to remain cool.

Dehydration can be prevented by keeping the living space well-ventilated, avoiding excessive activity during hours of peak heat and keeping well hydrated in accordance with your physician’s recommendations regarding your individual safe daily fluid intake.

“If you know of an elderly relative, neighbor or friend who lives alone, we suggest you check on them during the hot weather and make sure they are OK,” Batzel said.

To accommodate area senior citizens, Blair Senior Services has extended its hours today through Friday. The Central Blair Senior Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the Northern Blair Senior Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The heat also affects pets.

“Pet owners should keep their dogs out of the sun, but if they are left outside, make sure they have extra water.