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What's that smell? 

South County residents wrinkling their noses at foul odors these past few days can look beyond the family dog to a combination of hot weather, drying lakes, and decaying organic matter.

On Sept. 4, the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District and Environmental Health Division reported that hot and humid weather patterns are behind the strong sulfuric smell wafting around Oceano, Arroyo Grande, and Nipomo. Rocketing temperatures have been drying up dune lakes, and the resulting rotting organic soup created a stench that isn't worthy of a health advisory, but could upset people with sensitive systems.

And that's not the only problem. Warm weather on the Central Coast usually means fun in the sun, beers at the beach, and secretly peeing in the pool. But with temperatures in parts of San Luis Obispo County recently pushing the mercury level of thermometers over the 100-degree mark, many residents may be at risk of potentially fatal heat-related illnesses.

"The amount of heat was higher than usual," Greg Thomas, a county public health officer, said about this Labor Day weekend's sweltering conditions. "Health risks can be mild to serious. Potentially, you can die from severe heat stroke."

Thomas said he knew of four people in the county who were recently treated for heat-related illnesses.

During the hottest days, the State Office of Emergency Services opened a day shelter at the Paso Robles Event Center. The Mid State Fairgrounds did duty as a cooling center for people who needed to get out of the sweltering afternoon.

Thomas said the biggest misconception about heat-related illness is that drinking alcohol gives people lots of useful fluids.

"Alcohol is a diuretic and is dehydrating," he said. "It interferes with the body's ability to cool itself."

According to a recent county notice, air conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness. Other defensive tactics include wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing drinking plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and strenuous activities and staying indoors when possible.


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