Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — During a heat wave, what is it like in the emergency department?
“We are busier. It is a concern,” admits Dr. Rade Vukmir, an emergency department physician at West Penn Hospital.
The main reason people come in? Exertion in the heat.
“These are people that are working in the environment, athletes and it doesn’t really take much in this environment to increase your body temperature significantly,” says Dr. Vukmir. “So you’ve got people that actually are working and that group comes in with heat exhaustion, heat cramps.”
The worst case scenario in heat like this is a large, organized sporting event.
“We have some athletic events, that include the marathon, and that we often see some of our highest exertional hyperthermia patients that come in with temperatures that are in the 105, 106, 107 range,” he describes.
Once in a rare while, someone will come in with multiple organs failing because heat-related illness.
Dr. Vukmir worries most about people who can’t do for themselves, especially the elderly who might be isolated and can’t regulate their body temperature.
“The non-exertional heat situation is typically an elder patient, they’re on medications that affect their thermoregulation and they come in with extremely high temperatures and those border on what we call heat stroke,” he says.
So know your environment, know your limitations. Stay well-hydrated and pace yourself if you have to be outside.