Hot Weather Causes Spike in Heat-Related Emergency Medical Calls

Officials see a surge in heat-related illness after lower than normal temperatures so far this summer.

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Tarrant County’s MedStar Emergency Medical Service reported a spike in calls the last two days for people overcome by heat.

MedStar Chief Transformation Officer Matt Zavadsky said people may be caught off guard by the effects of higher temperatures after a relatively mild summer so far.

Instead of the typical three heat-related calls per day, MedStar reported 14 such calls over the weekend. Ten of the 14 required hospitalizations and four of the patients were in critical condition.

“We want people to call us because we are here to keep people safe. And if people are beginning to have a heat-related emergency, that can progress pretty quickly into a life-threatening condition. We've had many of those already this weekend,” Zavadsky said.

MedStar activated extreme weather protocols on Monday, which happens when the heat index rises above 105 degrees. The protocols limit the exposure to extreme heat for patients and first responders.

Ambulances are equipped with extra supplies to cool patients -- three air conditioning units keep the vehicles cool and plenty of water keeps paramedics healthy.

“We tell people all the time, don’t go outside if you don’t have to. Well, first responders don’t have that choice,” Zavadsky said.

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The spell of 100-degree temperatures this summer comes along with poor air quality. The hazy conditions irritate people with respiratory problems.

“The air quality issues are a combination of the ozone issues with the heat, lack of wind, so it's not blowing off part of the ozone, but also all the wildfires that are going on in the west,” Zavadsky said. “Now we’ve got people who have heat-related illnesses and or underlying medical conditions that are aggravated by the hot weather.”

The Dallas and Tarrant County health departments oversee programs to help people who struggle with high electric bills from extra air conditioning in the hot weather.

Dallas County also offers a program to provide air conditioning units to help keep people healthy.

At Fort Worth’s Trinity Park Monday, one family was still playing basketball in the warm weather, but it was in the shade under a bridge. And they brought plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.

“I think it’s fine as long as you’re in the shade, and you properly hydrate,” said Francisca Arriaga, who brought a niece and nephew to the park. 

Her boyfriend John Hardwick did not have to be told that drinking plenty of liquids is wise in hot weather.

“It's really important to get something like Gatorade in your system, with electrolytes because those are important just to help out with all the sweating,” he said.

Advice from MedStar also called for light, loose-fitting clothes, limiting activity and checking on loved ones, especially elderly residents who may be more vulnerable to the heat.

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