First responders across East Texas asked the public to take extra precautions after Eastern counties were under heat advisory Wednesday July 7 with a heat index of more than 105 degrees.
According to representatives with Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital, there has been a spike in heat-related illnesses over the past two months.
Twelve people were hospitalized in July and an additional twelve were hospitalized in June.
The 90-plus degree temperatures did not stop nanny Danielle Atteberry from getting the kids out of the house to enjoy the outdoors at Bergfeld Park early Wednesday afternoon.
However, she went fully prepared for the blistering heat. In fact, she had it down to a science.
“We started by having a picnic in the shade and the whole time, I watched how the clouds were moving,” Atteberry said. “We came over to this area of the playground because it seemed to have the most cloud coverage at the time. This area also offers extra shade, which means the equipment will be cooler.”
She said she made sure everyone was hydrated before heading out and even had a technique for freezing and bringing water bottles.
“If you lay them flat in the freezer, it freezes all the way up the bottle so its cooling the water more evenly,” she said.
She toted the water in an insulted bag, chose Bergfeld park because of the tree coverage and brought towels to wipe sweat, something ETMC Paramedic and Outreach Education specialist Vicky Lamay says is crucial in East Texas.
“Sweat is supposed to evaporate and that’s what cools you off,” Lamay said. “In high humidity areas like ours, sweat does not evaporate and it creates this insulting layer that makes you even hotter underneath it. Drink water, wipe that sweat off and periodically go into the shade to cool off.”
She said to be more actively aware of how long you are outside. It only takes 15 or 30 minutes of just sitting outside for children and older people to overheat and suffer a heat stroke. Additionally, she said to avoid being outside from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. which is when heat is most intense.
“It’s great to find options like Bergfeld Park where there’s lots of trees and shade,” Atteberry said. “They have done an awesome job with renovations here. And thank God for the cloud coverage because that’s all Him.”
Area fire departments are on high alert too. Kilgore Fire Department posted a caution on their Facebook page Wednesday.
“Although Gregg County was not included in the heat advisory, it’s still a good idea to drink plenty of fluids, stay out of the sun and check up on relatives and neighbors,” the post quoted Rusk County EMC James Pike as saying.
Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons said when his men work outdoors during heat advisories, he adjusts their break times to ensure they can continue safely serving the community. For hundreds of other people who work outside, he advised they increase their break frequency to at least once an hour.
Representatives with DPS said it is important to know the signs of heat stroke especially for those who work outdoors or have children who playing outdoors.
Heat stroke symptoms include throbbing headaches, dizziness, light headedness and lack of sweating.
Additional symptoms include red, hot and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps.
Nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, rapid or shallow breathing, and changes in behavior are all warning signs.
More severe symptoms include seizures and unconsciousness.
In the event of those symptoms, call 911 and try to bring the body’s temperature down gradually by dousing in cool water. Cold water can shock the body and increase the chance of seizure.