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Dallas health officials urge caution as Texas heat wave continues

People walk and bike on the Katy Trail during the heatwave Thursday, June 28, 2023, in Dallas. Temperatures of 101 degrees are expected in the afternoon.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
People walk and bike on the Katy Trail during the heatwave Thursday, June 28, 2023, in Dallas. Temperatures of 101 degrees are expected in the afternoon.

Dallas County has recorded a rising number of heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke, cramps and exhaustion, as temperatures have remained between 90 and 100 degrees over the past few weeks.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Christian Grisales said the department has recorded more than 250 people with heat-related illnesses since it started collecting data at the end of May. In comparison, last year around the same time, the department had only recorded 71 people with these illnesses.

“It’s always hot in Texas,” Grisales said, “but this year it seems that it just got hotter a lot quicker.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services data on heat-related illnesses from the latest tracking period.
Dallas County Health and Human Services
Dallas County Health and Human Services data on heat-related illnesses from the latest tracking period.

He said the main symptoms include shortness of breath, heavy sweating, nausea, headaches and cramps. Heat stroke, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports can “cause death or permanent disability” if not treated, also includes high body temperature, a fast pulse, confusion and fainting.

Children and older adults are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses, according to the CDC. A majority of heat-related illnesses in Dallas County are impacting men between the ages of 18 and 44, often those who are working jobs that require them to be outside.

“We have a long summer season,” he said. “That means we have to be more careful when we exercise outside or do outdoor activities.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services offers low-income residents free window A/C units through a weatherization assistance program. To qualify, people have to make at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that means their total income can’t be more than $60,000 a year.

Grisales said it’s a program the department runs year-round, which also helps with heating units in the winter. According to the Fort Worth Report, the city of Fort Worth also offers “financial assistance to help residents from lower-income households with their electricity bills” to pay for air conditioning costs during the summer months.

Dallas County Health and Human Services has information on cooling locations around the city.
Dallas County Health and Human Services
Dallas County Health and Human Services has information on cooling locations around the city.

Parkland Health has also seen more patients in the emergency department with heat stroke and heat exhaustion in the past few weeks. Parkland Health Chief Medical Officer Joseph Chang said between 5 and 15 patients a day arrive with heat-related symptoms, and he expects that number to climb as it gets hotter.

“For something that is absolutely preventable, as long as we have a little planning and forethought, it really would be a shame to be admitted to the hospital,” he said.

He said people don’t often think about the impact of heat on their health.

“We take the heat for granted,” Chang said. “It’s just there. It’s just part of our lives. That kind of complacency always drives the problems of people not thinking about it beforehand.”

He encourages people to stay indoors when temperatures climb over 100 degrees. If they have to go outside, he recommends people wear hats and clothing that covers their arms, and stay hydrated before, during and after the event.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.