People and animals beat the heat at State Fair

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A horse cools off at bath time at the Ohio State Fair.
A horse cools off at bath time at the Ohio State Fair.

With the heat index pushing 100 degrees in Columbus, the allure of state fair can also be a risky one. Today alone, the fair’s first aid staff has tended to 18 heat-related incidents. Fair participants and visitors are taking extra precautions to keep themselves and their animals safe.

Despite the summer heat, shade and lots of fans make it comfortable in the sheep barn. Dan Penhorwood has 18 head of sheep in the fair. He says the animals would have to cope with the heat at home or at the fair.

“Basically just make sure there’s water in front of them all the time, we have fans set up,” Penhorwood said. “That’s about the best thing you can do right now.”

In the horse barn, animals cool off at bath time.

But whether they’re showing sheep, massive draft horses, or two-ton Angus bulls, owners agree air circulation and water are the most important precautions. Kim Pozderac and her family show sheep, while Richard Clarke and Kelsie Davis show Black Angus cattle.

“We have fans on them all day, and we keep them like watered all day, we try to get as much water as we can to them,” Davis said.

“We have three very high dollar fans that keep air blowing on them at all times, circulation. They were washed and rinsed this morning,” Clarke said. “The best thing you can do is just like people keep a lot of fluids in front of them, a lot of water.”

“Making sure that they have the fans and the appropriate amount of water to drink is very important,” Pozderac said.

Penhorwood once had to take an overheated sheep home from the Hilliard fair for veterinary treatment. He says that, while rare, the signs of heat exhaustion are easy to recognize and treat.

“First off the first signs will be panting, then they’ll start getting weak on their legs, they won’t eat or won’t want to get up,” he said. “If you get it treated right away, they’ll be fine.”

People at the fair may be at greater risk than the animals. They’ll spend more time in the sun, and have more reasons to over-exert themselves. Again, hydration is key.

Esther Gorman squeezes lemons for Ag-Court Lemonade at the fair. Visitors are also allowed to bring their own fluids.

Fair-goer Lanice Berry pauses with her daughter Ariana at one of the fair’s misting tents for relief from the heat.

“I brought my little liter bottle of water that hopefully I can fill up at water fountains and just get cool drinks throughout with plenty of ice,” Berry said.

Toni Rausch is a registered nurse and director of the fair’s first aid station. She says that, despite precautions, the station sees several cases of heat exhaustion each year. Symptoms include tiredness, dizziness, and weakness.

At the air-conditioned first aid station, overheated fair-goers may receive IV fluids. More serious cases go to an emergency room. Rausch cautions fair visitors to pace themselves to avoid overheating.

“Number one is lots and lots of fluids. Water and electrolyte fluids such as Gatorade and Gatorade-type things is the best thing,” she said. “The other thing is, if you come to the fair, and we’d love to have you come, is to make sure and don’t overdo it. Don’t do lots of strenuous things, and take many rest periods in the shade and in air conditioned buildings.”

She adds that, while visitors should take precautions, there’s no need to be alarmed.

“It is august and it is Columbus and it’s the state fair and it’s always hot,” Rausch said. “You can still enjoy the fair, even though it’s hot, just do it sensibly.”