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Moderate heat risk this weekend could pose health threats

Matthias Rietschel
/
The Associated Press file
A woman drinks from a water bottle on a hot summer day.

Temperatures are rising in the Puget Sound region, with very warm conditions in the forecast through Saturday and highs expected in the 90s Friday from Seattle southward. And officials warn there won’t be much relief during the overnight.

This is not as extreme as the major heat wave last month. But officials say the warmth can pose a moderate risk.

Dr. Jeremy Hess, a professor of Emergency Medicine and Occupational Health at the University of Washington, says thousands of people sought emergency care because of the heat last month, when Seattle saw three consecutive days of temps above 100 degrees. But it doesn’t take record heat to affect people’s health.

“Statistically, we actually start to see increases in emergency medical service utilization and emergency department utilization in the 80s, believe it or not,” Hess says.

He says when he works in the ER, the extra patients might not be really noticeable till the temps hit the mid-90s. But heat does affect people at lower temps, especially if they have underlying health conditions.

“Cardiovascular, lung problems, kidney problems … all of the systems are stressed when it's hot and can be overwhelmed and start to fail,” Hess says.  

And he says heat stroke can happen to anyone – and often sneaks up on people who think they’re not vulnerable.

“People who are perfectly healthy can suffer heat stroke. And in some contexts, it's people who are healthy who are more at risk, actually, like workers and those who feel like they can push the limits a little more,” Hess says.   

Especially vulnerable are people without effective cooling or adequate hydration. Officials say it’s a good time to check on the elderly and make sure children and pets are cool enough.

The City of Tacoma has opened its cooling shelter at the Lighthouse Activity Center, which is activated when temperatures are forecast over 85 degrees. Seattle's Office of Emergency Management says 10 air-conditioned branches of The Seattle Public Library will be available from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Friday