Rural/Metro: Heat Related Illness a Concern

Knoxville (WVLT) - It's already scorching, and it's not even summer yet.

Two weeks to the official start of summer, and temperatures are already 10 to 12 degrees above average.

The extreme heat caught many people off guard yesterday, sending rural/metro ambulance crews into overdrive, responding to people already experiencing heat-related illnesses.

The temperature goes up 10 degrees, and the number of calls rural metro crews respond to goes up 10 to 20 percent, as well.

Veteran EMS Supervisor Kurt Wieger says they can plan on additional calls, because many of us don't plan for the heat. "As it heats up, people aren't used to it. So, they're not taking their precautions yet. They're not doing what they need to, to prevent the heat emergencies."

But the line on the thermometer isn't the only way meteorologists define heat.

They've created a heat index, which combines heat and humidity.

The temperature may be 92 degrees, but combined with humidity, which inhibits sweat from evaporating off the skin and cooling the body, the heat index may climb into the danger zone.

"It's not so much just the temperatures, this humidity level, when it gets up, people get out and start trying to do their normal activities,” Weiger says.

And that's when rural/metro comes to the rescue.

People experiencing symptoms that have usually built up over several days of activities in extreme heat, without the proper replacement of fluids.

Those symptoms: heavy sweating, turning pale, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, fainting, cool, clammy skin, fast breathing, and headache

The best way to avoid these symptoms of heat exhaustion is to drink plenty of fluids, even if you aren't thirsty.

"Think about that early. They need to be drinking a lot if they know they're going to be outside, you need to start hydrating with water,” says Weiger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the elderly, children under four, people who are overweight, those who become dehydrated, the mentally ill, or people with medical conditions, or who are on certain medications are the most susceptible victims of a heat wave.