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Doctors Warn Of Heat-Related Illness During Record-Setting Heat Wave

SALT LAKE CITY — As temperatures climb into the triple digits, doctors warned Utahns to take precautions in order to protect themselves from heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness can be serious, even deadly, and the most vulnerable populations are the elderly and children. Doctors said they have already seen it in the hospital this season, and they expect an uptick during the heat wave.

Dr. Adam Balls said the most important thing we can do to avoid an emergency room visit is to stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day and stay hydrated.

“The heat-related illnesses that we experience can be catastrophic,” said Balls, emergency medicine physician at Intermountain Healthcare. “People often underestimate the amount of water and hydration that is required when the temperature hits triple digits, and that’s going to be often two to three times what you would normally drink.”

Balls said if you’re outside, minimize any strenuous activity, take breaks, drink water, find shade and find some air conditioning to allow your body to cool down.

Signs of illness include muscle cramps, tiredness and fatigue. If muscle cramps last long, if you start getting confused and losing consciousness, then the illness may be serious and require medical attention.

In Draper, parents and children flooded the city’s splash park, cooling down in the water and shade.

“Take a break from the heat. They enjoy it. So long as I have some shade, I’m okay,” said Cameron Gibbs, who took his two boys to the splash pad. “I’d probably take this over the cold and wind of winter.”

“The wind keeps us nice and cool. Kids are playing, staying cool. Keeping them sun screened,” said Amberly Aplanalp, who was there with her three children.

Balls also warned parents not to leave children in a car. In this kind of heat, he said, “cars can heat up quite significantly in a short amount of time. Minutes in the car can be catastrophic and deadly if an infant or child is left in those situations for even five minutes of time.”

Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonologist at Intermountain, said those with lung problems may also find the heat more difficult. She warned those with things like asthma and COPD may have difficulty breathing.

“The other group I would add in this year is people who may have had COVID. Those that had long or serious illness with COVID may notice that they have respiratory symptoms where that wasn’t something that was happening previously,” she said.

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