FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) –The triple-digit temperatures in the Central Valley are sending patients to the hospital for heat-related illnesses.
“We have had heat-related illnesses coming into the emergency department,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, an emergency physician and assistant dean at UCSF Fresno. “We always do whenever the temperatures go above 100 here in the Valley.”
Dr. Banh says many patients are people who work outdoors, like farmworkers.
“We also have at-risk patients –people who are elderly or don’t have access to air conditioning. And finally, just regular people going out, not paying attention, exercising, going out having fun,” he said.
Children and the elderly are most vulnerable, but experts say heat illness can happen to anyone.
“It has to do with a lot of factors. Your overall fitness level, what you’ve eaten in the day, how much you’ve had to drink water or alcohol,” said Ben Wiele with American Ambulance, adding that the best thing to do is staying hydrated.
“We’re talking about water. Sports drinks are ok if they’re supplementing your water intake but we really want to stay away from sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks.”
Wiele says you should avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol because they can dehydrate you.
“Limit your time exposed outside, try to maximize your food intake. Trying to wait for you to be thirsty is usually too late. You’re going to be losing a lot of water, like sweat coming off,” said Dr. Banh, who recommends being aware of signs of heat illness. “They’re feeling ill, dizzy, nauseous. They may throw up and that may progress to them even passing out and they often come into the emergency department for that reason.”
“If they’re perhaps more tired than normal and that tiredness is persistent. If you’re feeling headaches that are worse than usual and they’re longer than usual,” said Wiele.
If someone is showing these signs, get them out of the sun and seek medical help if needed.
“You can remove clothing as is appropriate and use passive cooling measures like putting a fan on them or putting an ice pack under their armpits or their chest. That will help as well,” said Wiele.
The City of Fresno opens its cooling centers when the National Weather Service forecasts a high of 105 degrees or hotter. For a full list, visit the city’s website.