Spike in heat related ER visits among young people

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – Public health officials found a surprising and disturbing trend during this week’s dangerous heat wave.

Multnomah County Public Health reported an increase in young people whose work requires them to be outside ending up in the emergency room.

said the county at least one-third of emergency room visits seen this week during the heat wave were linked to people overheating at work.

Despite a major heat wave in Portland this week, staff at Cornell Farm in Northwest Portland were showing up for work like any other day, but with extra precautions.

“To take more frequent breaks in an air-conditioned area, make sure we’re drinking our water and be sure to reapply our SPF,” said Josie Losh, who works outside tending to the plants every day. “We have a buddy system, so if you come in and start a shift with someone else, you want to check that person out.”

Losh and her co-workers tend to plant year-round at Cornell Farm, regardless of the weather. In the last day, Multnomah County Public Health said health investigators saw young people being treated for heat exhaustion at local emergency rooms because they developed symptoms of heat exhaustion over several days.

“Young people who think they’re a bit infallible are working there and not taking enough breaks,” said Acting Health Officer Dr. Ann Loeffler. “They’re not drinking enough fluids and more importantly they’re not going inside where the temperatures are really cold.”

Loeffler said it’s essential to go to an air-conditioned space at the end of your workday, but said people can sometimes miss simple precautions to take.

“They can have effects (of heat exhaustion) because they’re not fully hydrated or they’re not getting certain foods that are low in sodium and potassium,” Loeffler said. “Some people don’t eat enough food because a lot of people don’t eat much when they’re overheated.”

For Losh at Cornell Farm, she said recovering from a long day at work in the heat is just as important as taking precautions while on the job.

“Even if you have a water bottle in your hand throughout the day, it’s still difficult to get the recommended amount of water,” she said. “When I get home, I definitely make sure I’m hydrating with water and other things that have electrolytes like coconut water.”

As of Friday, Multnomah County Public Health said there have been over 30 ER visits since the heat wave began last Sunday and over 70 heat-related 911 calls for people showing signs of heat exhaustion .

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