EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 19, 2013

Heat keeps hospitals, cooling centers busy

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — Local hospitals and doctor’s offices are seeing a surge in patients with heat-related illnesses as temperatures yesterday climbed into the 90s for the fourth straight day.

Cooling centers across Southern New Hampshire welcomed plenty of people seeking relief from the extreme heat.

The centers could be seeing even more today, when temperatures are expected to soar to nearly 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a heat advisory. State health officials have urged residents to take precautions to avoid heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

Parkland Medical Center in Derry has treated numerous people suffering from dehydration because of the heat, according to Dr. Thomas Scott, who oversees the hospital’s emergency room.

“We have been seeing an increase in people coming in feeling dizzy and nauseous,” Scott said. “It’s at least three or four a day that we can attribute to that.”

Although none were seriously ill, a few people did pass out, he said.

People suffering from dehydration are given lots of water and sometimes require intravenous fluids, he said. Scott advises people to drink at least 10 to 16 8-ounce glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration.

Derry Medical Center and Londonderry Family Practice, Elliot Hospital in Manchester and Holy Family Hospital in Methuen also reported increases in patients with heat-related illnesses.

Joanne McNulty, who supervises the emergency center at Holy Family, said they have seen an increase in patients with respiratory problems.

“In extreme heat conditions like this, individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD and emphysema need to be cautious,” she said. “It’s best to stay out of the heat and humidity as it may exacerbate respiratory symptoms.”

At Parkland, Scott said the patients treated tended to be either young or elderly. He said many of those patients thought they were suffering from something other than dehydration.

Young people tend to be more active and require more water, he said. The elderly are especially vulnerable to the heat and often don’t drink enough water to stay hydrated, he said.

“They don’t realize how hot it is and how hot they are,” Scott said. “They can get real sick really quickly.”

It’s perhaps no coincidence that many of the state’s cooling centers happen to be senior citizen centers.

They include the Ingram Senior Center in Salem, the Atkinson Senior Center and the Pelham Senior Center, according to the Governor’s Commission on Disability.

The Marion Gerrish Community Center in Derry, which hosts many senior citizen activities, is also on that list.

Yesterday, a group of 20 senior citizens escaped the heat by sitting down to a special Western-style lunch and playing bingo.

Richard Child, 77, of Derry was just happy to get inside where it was cool.

“It’s uncomfortable,” he said.

Many seniors have avoided the heat this week by going to the Ingram Senior Center, director Patti Drelick said.

About 300 seniors stop off at the center each day, she said. Drelick said she bought 20 cases of bottled water on Tuesday to make sure the center was well stocked.

“Some of the people who come here regularly stay a little bit longer because of the heat,” she said.

Public libraries also have been listed as cooling centers. They include Leach Library in Londonderry and Plaistow Public Library.

The Plaistow library’s website tells patrons: “Beat the heat in a comfy chair with a good book, free wi-fi, water and AC!”

For those are out in the heat, McNulty recommends they avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. She also said people should avoid strenuous physical and outdoor activities, wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, and use sunblock.