Scientists said recently that 2016 has been the hottest year on record so far. Global warming and El Niño have helped the temperatures rise, they’ve stated.
Insider Louisville spoke to Dr. Robert Couch, director of the emergency department at Norton Audubon Hospital, Thursday as Louisville started feeling the heat to see what things people should do to prevent medical emergencies and when someone should seek medical attention.
“When it gets this bad, heat can be deadly,” he said. “Just try to stay cool.”
Those most affected by extreme heat are the very young, the elderly and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, emphysema and diabetes, Couch said.
However, he added, middle-aged folks also will end up in the emergency room because they are not acclimated to working outside, particularly in such high heat. Couch encouraged people, if possible, to take care of outdoor work or yard work early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. And, of course, drink plenty of water and replace electrolytes.
“There is some danger in over-hydrating, but make sure you stay hydrated,” said Couch. Use your common sense.
People need to be especially careful when playing or practicing sports and take plenty of water breaks. Louisvillians will remember the story of Max Gilpin, a football player for Pleasure Ridge Park High School who died in August 2008 from heat stroke from a result of dehydration and high heat.
“That case really shined a light,” Couch said.
For parents, Norton Healthcare has a free online tool called GoNoodle that has videos and games to keep children occupied and moving inside the house. A premium version of the site is available to all Jefferson County public and private school students.
Couch also suggested people check on their elderly neighbors who may hole up in their house to avoid the heat, but if they don’t have fans or working air conditioning, the house can warm rapidly.
“The young have mothers and grandmothers,” he said. “The very old may not.”
So when should someone seek medical attention?
Couch said heat illnesses can present themselves through various symptoms, but if someone is feeling weak or lightheaded and is vomiting, then he or she should head to the emergency room. If someone becomes confused or shows other neurological symptoms, rush them to the closest hospital. (Check out the pamphlet below for more on heat illnesses.)
“That’s definitely a medical emergency,” he said. “That is very, very, very serious.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also released his own tips for staying cool this week, including limiting time outdoors, taking cold baths or showers to lower body temperature, wearing loose clothing and avoiding alcohol.
Those without air conditioning can call Metro United Way at 211 or visit metrounitedway.org to find places such as libraries, community centers and government buildings where people can hang out.
Five homeless shelters — St. Vincent de Paul, 1034 S. Jackson St.; Salvation Army Center of Hope, 831 S. Brook St.;Louisville Rescue Mission, 733 E. Jefferson St.; St. John Center, 700 E. Muhammad Ali; and Wayside Christian Mission, 432 E. Jefferson St. — will allow homeless people to stay when the temperature or heat index reaches 95 degrees or higher.