Medical experts warn of heat stroke dangers as Northeast Ohio experiences hot temps

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — As the mercury rose, putting Cleveland and other cities in the midwest and eastern parts of the country under a heat advisory, officials warned that heat-related illnesses can be a danger.

Dr. Tom Waters, an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, said a heat emergency is most common when temperatures rise and humidity is high.

“It creates the right environment for acute heat illness and that can range anywhere from heat cramps to what we call heat exhaustion and all the way on the far end of the spectrum is something we call heat stroke, which is an acute life-threatening emergency,” he said.

Some symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, headaches and feeling thirsty. Usually, self-hydration will help according to Dr. Baruch Fertel, Director of Operations of Quality for emergency departments at the Cleveland Clinic.

“When it becomes more severe is when people are starting to become lethargic, their skin is very warm to the touch, they’re not sweating anymore, change in mental status, that is a life-threatening emergency and those patients should be taken to the hospital.”

In 2019, heat was the third leading cause of weather-related deaths, according to the National Weather Service. 

“Like everything else, this is something that’s entirely preventable,” said Fertel. “It’s really important especially the very young and the very old to really make sure you’re hydrated.”

He also says those who exercise or work outside are more vulnerable. 

“You also sweat a little bit, you lose some of the moisture through your mouth when you’re breathing and it’s really important to make up for those loses,” Fertel explained.

On top of that, people are safeguarding against coronavirus with social distancing and masks, which can be uncomfortable in the heat. Fertel says it’s fine to take it off if you’re keeping 6 to 8 ft. of distance from other outside but if you go indoors for some AC, “this virus loves to hang out indoors, please wear a mask.”

Waters adds that anyone who seems confused after spending time in the heat should be cooled down immediately and taken to an emergency department because confusion is a sign of heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.

He said people should not be afraid to go to an ER because of COVID-19, as hospitals have put a number of measures in place to keep patients safe.

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