The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office reports that four persons have died of hyperthermia related to the ongoing North Texas heat wave. The deaths occurred from July 2 through July 17, with two resulting from working outdoors and two involving individuals with no working air conditioning.
One of the deceased was 26 years old and the others were in their 70s.
MedStar crews, meanwhile, continued to respond to a daily onslaught of heat wave emergencies. The Tarrant County mobile health care provider and ambulance service treated 24 patients for a primary heat-related illness from Thursday through Saturday (July 20-22); 17 were transported to area hospitals with one in critical condition.
The total number of patients treated from May 1 through July 22 stands at 451 with 330 patients taken to area hospitals, 24 of them in critical condition and four in serious condition.
The total includes 307 male patients (68.1%) and 144 females (31.9%), MedStar said in a news release, with an average age of 46.2 years. The oldest patient treated was 90 and the youngest was 1 year old. Six were 10 years of age or younger.
By location type, Medstar’s heat responses (through July 17) included: street/highway/vacant lot 164 (48.2%); house/apartment 69 (20.3%); public/commercial building 66 (19.4%); park/athletic/recreation area 21 (6.2%); shelter 20 (5.9%).
MedStar has a special response procedure when the heat index (real feel) temperature climbs to 105 degrees or higher. For patients located outside in an unprotected area, MedStar upgrades the priority of the response to limit the patient and responders from exposure to extreme heat.
In addition to heat-related illnesses, Medstar responded to 6 children in hot cars through July 22. Texas leads the nation in hot-car child deaths, MedStar says, and reminds everyone to never leave children unattended in cars and to be sure vehicles are secured to prevent a curious child from becoming trapped in the car on a hot day.
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If you find a child unattended in a hot car, the service says, alert authorities immediately, and, if necessary, be prepared to take action based on the instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
These recommendations are also good for pets, MedStar notes.
To encourage awareness of the dangers of excessive heat as the dangerous heat wave continues in North Texas, Medstar offers the following information on heat-related illness:
- Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating, particularly through hard physical labor or exercise. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include muscle cramps, paleness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible.
- Heatstroke is a life-threatening problem that occurs when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. Some of the most common signs of heatstroke include confusion, vomiting, alteration in sweating, hot and flushed skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, increased body temperature (104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit), or potentially, convulsions.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency, MedStar says, and advises that if you or someone you know starts experiencing any of the symptoms above, immediately call 9-1-1.
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Preventive measures to help avoid heat-related illness include:
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water during the day, especially if you are engaged in any strenuous activity. Sports drinks are a good choice if you’re exercising or working in hot conditions, but water is a good way to hydrate as well.
- Ventilate: Stay in a place where there is plenty of air circulating to keep your body cool. If you are indoors and don’t have access to air conditioning, open windows and use a fan.
- Cover Up: Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing to avoid absorbing the sun’s light and trapping heat. Wear a hat to shield yourself from the sun, but once you feel yourself getting warm, remove any items covering your head which can trap heat close to your body.
- Limit Activity: Heatstroke can occur in less than an hour when you are participating in strenuous activity during a hot day. If you feel yourself getting hot or light-headed, stop your activity and rest in a cool place out of the sun. Be sure to drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after any strenuous activity.
- Check on Loved Ones: The elderly are especially vulnerable to heat related emergencies. Many elderly residents are not aware of how hot it may get in their residence. Call on older friends and family members regularly to assure they are doing OK.