HEMSI officials expect more heat related emergencies this year

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- HEMSI officials are getting ready for another busy week, adding additional staffing and making sure they stay cool, too, while responding to heat related emergencies.

Don Webster, Chief Operating Officer of HEMSI, tells WHNT News 19 the ambulance service has already seen an elevated number of heat emergencies this year.

"We usually see them around the 4th of July," he said, commenting that on Friday EMT's responded to six heat incidents. This past week, they've responded to more than 17.

But it's not just those calls keeping them busy. An increased number of people have needed assistance for respiratory issues, said Webster.

"Those are people who have underlying medical issues... And they get out in this high humidity and high temperatures... and they can't breathe well," he said.

Medical personnel advise you to handle this heat with a dose of reality, and take precautions.

"You want to make sure you drink a lot of fluids," said Dr. Robert Platt. He works in the ER at Huntsville Hospital. "Often, more than you think you need."

It's been busy there, too, he says, as people get outdoors and have to work in the heat during the week.

"They come in with weakness, maybe vomiting. A lot of them severe muscle cramps," he said, commenting about the symptoms of dehydration.

If you're parched, though, alcohol might not be the best remedy.

"It can cause altered mental status," said Dr. Platt. "Confusion. You don't realize you're getting dehydrated. You have a tendency to urinate more than usual so you're losing fluids that way."

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