Know the signs of heat-related illness

Summer Weather

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — With the temperatures and humidity soaring this week, medical professionals say heat-related emergencies are on the rise.

Over the course of this current heat wave, hospital group Lifespan said its emergency departments have treated at least 14 patients for heat-related issues. Dr. Mark Zonfrillo, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Hasbro, wants residents to be careful and avoid any unnecessary hospital visits.

“It’s still important to use an SPF 30 or greater [sunscreen] and to reapply after being in the water,” Zonfrillo said. “Going in the shade, taking breaks, making sure to bring plenty of water before you go out in the sun and while you are out in the sun.”

People can start experiencing dehydrating after just minutes of being outside in excessive heat, according to Zonfrillo.

Although rare, Zonfrillo tells 12 News that heat stroke is the most serious of these conditions and can be deadly. If you or someone you know experiences a throbbing headache, fever, dry and hot skin, and stop sweating, call 911 immediately.

East Providence EMS Capt. John Potvin said they’ve responded to three or four heat exhaustion calls every day of this heat wave.

“It also manifests illnesses in those that migh have an underlying condition such as diabetes, any kind of breathing ailments, or maybe a cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure,” Potvin explained.

Another growing concern among hospitals is that with the delta variant causing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, these heat-related calls can overwhelm an emergency room.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Heat Cramps

  • The mildest form of heat-related illness
  • Muscle pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion
  • Usually the first sign your body is having trouble keeping cool

Heat Exhaustion

  • Occurs when body is dehydrated from lots of sweating
  • Symptoms include:
    • Heavy sweating (even though skin may be cool, pale or flushed)
    • Weak pulse
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Exhaustion
    • Headache
  • Treatment:
    • Lie down in a cool place
    • Loosen or remove clothing
    • Put cool, wet clothes on body
    • Go into air-conditioning if possible
    • Take slow sips of cool water (half a glass every 15 minutes)
    • If vomiting, get medical help

Heat Stroke

  • A life-threatening medical emergency
  • Body can no longer stay cool
  • Can cause brain damage or death
  • Symptoms include:
    • Temperature of 105 or higher
    • Hot, red, dry skin
    • Rapid, weak pulse
    • Shallow breathing
    • No sweating
    • Potential unconsciousness
  • Treatment
    • Call 911
    • Move person to cooler place
    • Remove person’s clothing
    • Use cool (not cold) bath or wet cloth to lower body temperature
    • Use fan or air conditioner to help lower body temperature

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