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Oklahoma summer: Remember safety measures as temps heat up

Galen Hawes -- ghawes@news-star.com
Summer heat

Oklahoma temperatures are expected in the triple digits over the next week with high heat indexes.

The National Weather Service in Norman reports strong to severe storms will be possible Tuesday evening through the overnight hours across northwest Oklahoma.

Except for a few brief breaks after thunderstorms, hot weather is expected to continue through this week.

“During this time stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes, do not overwork in the heat, make sure to take breaks often, and dress appropriately,” said Levi Wells, REACT EMS paramedic field training officer. “Signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, dizziness and the feeling of needing water but not getting enough which can lead to more severe symptoms such as exhaustion or passing out this is when the symptoms turn into an emergency.”

The forecast shows temperatures will range from 94 to 106 degrees throughout this week.

 “I have not experienced any heat exhaustion cases this summer on my shift, but I can’t speak for other paramedics on different shifts,” said Wells.

The National Weather Service states those working or spending time outdoors should take precautions, such as rescheduling strenuous activities to early morning or evening when possible and advises wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible.

Frequent breaks also are a good idea and anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. A heat stroke is an emergency so call 911 immediately.

The National Weather Service also reminds everyone that it’s never safe to leave a toddler, disabled person or pet in a car.

In 2019, it was reported that 51 young children passed away in hot cars and in 2020 a death was reported as early as April.

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses.

SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee also provided information about the dangers of hot vehicles. According to KidsandCars.org, in 2019, it is estimated that 52 U.S. children died of heatstroke after being left in hot cars. Between 1990 and 2019, it is estimated that 25 Oklahoma children died. The advocacy and education nonprofit organization says the figures are likely an undercount because there are no official data collection systems. 

The temperature inside a car rises almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When temperatures outside are in the 80s, the inside of a car can reach close to 125 degrees within 60 minutes according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

Young children are particularly at risk as their body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's. When a child's internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child's temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die. Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think.

For those who have a child or pet is in the car frequently, officials suggest making it a habit to open the back door of the car every time you park, even if you know you do not have a child or pet in the backseat. Keeping a belonging like a cell phone, wallet or purse in the backseat so you will open the back door to get those items is a good idea, or keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder; and or keep your vehicle locked so children cannot accidentally get trapped inside when the vehicle is not in use.

For more information, visit www.weather.gov, reactems.com, or the React EMS Facebook Page.