Emergency responders seeing increase in heat-related calls

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Guilford County Emergency Service workers are responding to about double the number of heat-related calls this summer compared to last. Forsyth EMS is seeing similar numbers.

“Most of what we see are heat exhaustion. Just where they're too hot, overheated, their body is still maintaining and compensating pretty well,” explained Chris Wilson with Guilford County EMS. “But if it goes unchecked, you will progress into what we call heat stroke and that is a significant, life-threatening emergency.”

Guilford EMS worked one to two such calls a day last summer. This summer it’s up to about four or five calls. They’ve responded to 97 calls total since the start of last summer, with major spikes in July 2015 and July 2016. About 70 percent of those patients were sick enough to have to go to the hospital.

Forsyth County EMS Assistant Chief Daren Ziglar shared data from the last two weeks. They had 25 calls for environmental heat complaint and 223 calls for breathing difficulty, which can be linked to air quality.

In the same time span in 2015, those numbers were 12 for environmental heat complaint and 225 for breathing. “We have seen twice as many environmental in the past two weeks of 2016 compared to 2015,” Ziglar explained.

Randolph County EMS Major Bradley Beck said they’ve had about 14 heat-related calls this summer. They do not think that is significantly higher than most summers in the past.

Identifying heat illness is important, added Wilson. “You may start to feel a little nauseated, light headed, you may feel like you're about to pass out. You may have some vision impairment.”

He also pointed out, “The elderly and the young are the ones we're really concerned about so make sure you're checking on your neighbors.”

When medics respond to these calls, they move the patient to somewhere cool, apply wet towels and ice packs, and offer fluids. If the patient can not drink water, they may set up an IV of fluids.

“Limit your time outside, so if you have to be outside working, take plenty of breaks. Hydrate yourself really well… make sure you have loose, light colored clothing on. Those are things that will help keep you cool,” Wilson advised.