The June heat wave has sent dozens of people to hospital emergency rooms in the Fresno area with minor to very serious heat-related illnesses.
“I have worked the last four days in a row, right during the worst of the heat, and I have seen the entire range of heat illnesses,” said Dr. Jessica Mason, an emergency medicine physician at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.
So far there has been one suspected heat-related death in the central San Joaquin Valley during this heat wave. A 48-year-old Madera woman died on Tuesday.
Mason said there have been multiple patients in the last few days who were in critical condition and needed resuscitation and their body temperatures cooled. On Thursday, a patient in the ER had an internal body temperature of 108 degrees, she said. A temperature of 98.6 degrees is normal.
There’s no specific outdoor temperature that causes heat stroke, a condition in which the body can no longer regulate its temperature and organs can begin to fail, but medical texts often cite 106 degrees as a tipping point, Mason said.
I have worked the last four days in a row, right during the worst of the heat, and I have seen the entire range of heat illnesses.
Dr. Jessica Mason, emergency medicine doctor at Community Regional Medical Center
Friday was the sixth straight day of temperatures at 106 or above in Fresno.
High temperatures are expected to cool to 102 degrees on Saturday, 103 degrees Sunday and to 99 degrees on Monday. Tuesday through Thursday, forecast to be in the mid-90s, should feel balmy.
But the summer has only begun.
People, especially those who must be outdoors, should expect more heat waves, said Dr. Rais Vohra, an emergency medicine physician at Community Regional and an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF-Fresno.
Extended periods of extreme heat should be viewed as catastrophes, Vohra said. People should be prepared in the same way as people who live in tornado or hurricane regions prepare for those events.
“Have all your fluids (water and electrolyte solutions) handy,” he said. “Make sure you know how to get to a shady place. There are things you can do to survive on a really hot day.”
This week proves that extreme heat is an environmental emergency, Vohra said: “We’re already having a little epidemic here because of this heat wave.”
American Ambulance statistics seem to confirm that the June heat is a problem. The Fresno-based ambulance company has responded to 162 heat-related injuries this month – more than double the responses in June 2016.
Children and the elderly are at greater risk in heat waves because they are more prone to dehydration and their bodies are less able to control their temperatures.
Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera has seen heat-related problems the past two weeks.
We’re already having a little epidemic here because of this heat wave.
Dr. Rais Vohra, emergency medicine doctor at Community Regional Medical Center
In adults, medications for heart disease and other conditions can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its thermostat. People taking medications should check with their doctors about whether their prescriptions need to be adjusted to account for the heat, Vohra said.
Mason and Vohra said overheated patients are brought or come to the emergency department for a variety of serious conditions, including but not limited to heat stroke.
A patient with burned feet caught the attention of Community’s Mason, who is also a clinical instructor of emergency medicine at the UC San Francisco-Fresno Medical Education Program.
It takes only a few minutes walking barefoot on a hot sidewalk or on asphalt to burn your feet, she said. “I saw second-degree burns to both of the feet.” Second-degree burns extend beyond the top layer of the skin.
Vohra worked a shift Thursday in the low-acuity area of the emergency department. He treated patients with prickly heat rash. It sounds uncomfortable – and it is, he said. “They’re just sweating and not able to stay dry and their skin becomes irritated.”
His advice for Valley residents for the next few months: Be prepared for the heat.
“Even when this really, really high heat wave ends, we’re going to be in for a hot summer.”
Fresno is being blistered by a long streak of triple-digit temperatures. Compare the daily temperatures this year (including what’s forecast) with last year at this time.
Source: National Weather Service