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Heat and humidity bring more patients to Mercy ER

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This week saw the return of high temperatures in central Oklahoma, with a heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Norman for the area through Friday evening. In northern Oklahoma an excessive heat watch was put into effect until Saturday night.

In addition, the weather service included Logan County in an air quality alert on Thursday, meaning that the Guthrie area was expected to have a high concentration of ozone and that people with existing heart or respiratory ailments should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity. For many, choosing to stay indoors will not be a difficult decision to make, with heat indexes in the 100–105 range. Emergency Department Medical Director and Physician Dr. Bill Worden of Mercy Hospital Logan County (and Crescent resident) says the hospital has seen more heat-related sicknesses recently.

“In this last week especially, we have been seeing more. It probably averages about two or three cases every day, which is a little more than last year when we would see about that many every week,” Worden said.

Worden says it isn’t just high temperatures that increase the risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

“When it rains more, which we need of course, it gets more humid and then when the temperatures rise again, the increased humidity plays a big part in heat sicknesses,” Worden says.

He recommends not only making sure to stay hydrated with water and sports drinks that replenish electrolytes while you are outside, but to also make sure to hydrate the day before spending time outdoors. Heat-related illnesses can come on very quickly, and they do not just affect older people; younger, healthy people are also susceptible.

“We have seen all ages and types of people (with heat sicknesses), from people working in oil fields, to others doing yard work or gardening. It is not just older people,” Worden says.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include aches, cramps, headaches and nausea, Worden says, while the more serious symptom of a heat stroke is when someone stops sweating.

“When someone stops sweating and becomes dry, that’s when it becomes serious. It’s not common, but people still can die from a heat stroke or have long-term kidney damage. That’s why it’s important to catch it before it gets to that point,” Worden said.

To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, in addition to staying hydrated, Worden suggests taking breaks if spending time outside and spending time in the shade. If you or someone around you is having a heat stroke, cooling the person is the most important thing, Worden says.

“Get them in a cool environment with cool liquids to drink, and even wet them down to lower their temperature,” he said.

The American Red Cross of Logan County also advises people to wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing. The organization gives a reminder to never leave children or pets in the car because the inside temperature of a car can quickly reach more than 120 degrees.

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