Health officials still urging to stay cautious as the number of heat-related deaths rises to 20

SPOKANE, Wash. — We may be out of triple digit temperatures, but we are still feeling the aftermath of last week’s extreme heat as Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office says 20 people have died from heat-related illness in Spokane.

Mike Lopez, Director of Integrated Medical Services for the Spokane Fire Department explains nationally, the number of heat related calls tends to stay the same even after a temperatures begin to cool down.

“Those systems tend to aggregate, accumulate over a period of time and once they hit a certain level it just becomes overwhelming for the individual,” said Lopez.

They’ve received 149 calls, all related to heat, since June 20. While their number of daily heat-related calls has decreased, over 60 percent of the total number are all people over the age of 50. Many of them are at home.

“These are older homes that don’t necessarily have air conditioning, so they do their level best to keep their homes cool, but that’s not enough. They need to stay hydrated,” he said.

According to Adam Richards, Director of Nursing for Providence’s Holy Family Hospital, while they expected heat-related illnesses from the season, he says the number is not okay.

“It’s something that’s completely preventable, so we need to work on, check on our neighbors, make sure they’re doing okay. Check on your coworkers or your family and make sure they’re also doing alright and then take advantage of the cooling mechanisms,” Richards said.

Hydration from water is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep yourself from getting heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

“Avoid those things like caffeinated beverages, soda pop, alcohol, beer, you know, things like that are not good methods of hydration and can even exacerbate things and can make them worse,” Richards said. “And most of this is, is completely avoidable, just drink lots of water, stay well hydrated, eat a good diet, good solid food, and you can actually avoid most of these things.”

He says even current temperatures are enough to cause a heat-related illness.

If you catch yourself in a heat-related illness, yes – hydrate, but you can also put a cold wet towel on your face. That evaporation can help cool you down quickly.

PAST COVERAGE: Medical Examiner: Death toll from heat-related issues rises to 20 

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