Even after 10 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees, heat-related illnesses haven’t spiked in the Washington area.
According to the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington, only 11 people have been treated over the past two weeks for incidents attributed to overheating.
Of those cases, one occurred Wednesday, June 27. Three occurred Thursday, June 28.
Another two were reported Saturday, June 30, and another two the next day.
One was reported July 5 and two more were reported July 6.
Temperatures only topped out in the mid-90s Sunday, July 8, ending the streak of triple-digit heat.
Kate Miller, Mercy media specialist, said the hospital emergency room averaged about 95 patients a day in June.
Jack Brinker, street supervisor for the city of Washington, said city crews have been working earlier to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
“Most of the guys start at about 5:30 in the morning to beat the heat,” Brinker said. “They work right on through. One thing the guys don’t like to do is eat lunch. It’s harder to get going again after you do.
“Trash guys have been starting at 6 a.m. ever since the end of May,” he said.
Brinker said trash crews run with two workers on the back of each truck to get their routes finished before the afternoon.
Crews working with asphalt have to deal with even warmer temperatures.
“It is really hot. The asphalt mixes at 300 degrees when crews are laying it, and with the heat index over 100, it gets rough,” Brinker said.
Dr. Bryan Menges, an emergency room physician at Mercy Hospital Washington, said getting out during the early, cooler parts of the day, can help people stay safe and cool.
“People who are out exercising and are committed to getting out need to do it earlier in the morning when its a lot cooler,” Menges said.
Lots of fluids also help keep people cool, he said, noting that dehydration makes people more susceptible to the heat.
Still, heat-related illnesses can occur in any sort of temperature range, Menges said.
“The symptoms are typically headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, passing out and weakness,” he said. “The extreme form is mental status change. When people start to experience that, that’s when it’s actually heat stroke.”
Heat stroke has a roughly 30 percent mortality rate among those admitted to hospitals.
Menges said people also should avoid alcohol and take frequent breaks when outdoors.
He said the relatively low number of heat-related ER visits came as a bit of a positive surprise.