Hot weather ahead, first responders share reminder about heat-related illnesses

Hot weather ahead, first responders share reminder about heat-related illnesses

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With high temperatures expected this weekend, first responders are reminding the public to take precautions when outside in the heat.

During the summer, especially this time of year, the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) tends to see an uptick in the number of calls for heat-related illnesses.

First responders urge you to know what those symptoms look like.

“With heat exhaustion, mild symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sweating, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath,” said Danielle Geronimo, Assistant Field Operations Supervisor for the Richmond Ambulance Authority. “With heatstroke, you’ll see confusion, also known as ‘altered mental status’ or even unconsciousness.”

Geronimo added most people stop sweating once they reach 104 degrees.

The American Red Cross of Virginia added a heat-related illness section to its mobile app providing tips on how to avoid these illnesses, what those symptoms are, and how to potentially treat it.

"By putting preparedness information directly on your phone we hope that we can keep everyone here in Richmond safe by avoiding those medical complications from extreme heat," said American Red Cross of Virginia Communications Director Jonathan McNamara.

“Hydration is key,” Geronimo said. “Taking small sips of water constantly, hourly if you can.”

While most people can take preventative measures, not everyone can.

Geronimo said RAA does get frequent calls about concerns for the homeless.

“We’re happy to help them especially because they can’t provide those basic needs for themselves,” she said. “So, if you see anyone experiencing some of these symptoms, we urge you to call 911 because they might not be able to for themselves.”

The same goes for children left in hot cars.

In a demonstration at RAA, the temperature inside a car rose nearly 30 degrees in a matter of 15 minutes.

“Temperatures can rise very rapidly and can lead to death,” Geronimo said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many of these cases.”

So far this year, KidsAndCars.org is reporting nine deaths related to children left in hot cars; one of those cases was in Springfield, VA on June 26.

Geronimo said RAA has not received any calls for children left in hot cars so far this year and hopes to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, first responders said preparation is key in preventing heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

“Definitely try and stay in the cool air conditioning or fan if at all possible,” Geronimo said. “Wear light-colored clothing, cover your face and head with a hat and sunglasses.”

However, we are also dealing with an added accessory these days in public, masks, which Geronimo said can be uncomfortable in the heat.

"It causes increased heat as you're breathing in the mask and do not have as much airflow," she added.

First responders said the masks are safe and there is an easy way to fix the problem if you are having a hard time breathing with them outside.

“We ask that you take your mask off and socially distance so that way you can get that airflow,” Geronimo said.

Richmond Ambulance Authority recommends you call 911 if you see anyone exhibiting symptoms related to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

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