Springfield is experiencing an excessive heat wave this week. (Graphic by Shannon Cay)

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the number of people treated by Mercy EMT staff.

The excessive heat warning is expected to continue through Friday, Aug. 25 and area hospitals report dozens of people  have sought treatment for heat-related illnesses.

As of late morning Aug. 22, staff at CoxHealth emergency department and Urgent Cares have treated about 20 people. A Mercy spokesperson said Mercy EMTs and emergency department staffed treated about 25 people between Saturday and Tuesday morning.

Anyone without air conditioning is encouraged to find a cooling center such as the Pat Jones YMCA on Republic Road of the Jordan Valley Ice Park in downtown Springfield. (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services created this interactive map of cooling centers.)

The National Weather Service called this week’s heat wave “historic” and reported the high temperature on Aug. 21 was 97 degrees at the Springfield-Branson airport with a record heat index of 120 degrees.

Luke Spain, Injury Prevention Coordinator for CoxHealth, said signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded, as well as excessive sweating, muscle cramps, weak pulse or having cold, clammy skin.

A photo of Luke Spain, Injury Prevention Coordinator for CoxHealth
Luke Spain is the Injury Prevention Coordinator for CoxHealth. (Photo submitted by CoxHealth)

“Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heatstroke,” Spain said. “So if you’re getting that nauseous feeling and things like that, those are all pretty good symptoms that it’s really time to get out of the heat.”

If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, Spain said it’s important to act quickly before heat stroke — the most serious heat-related illness — happens. 

For heat exhaustion, Spain said to get into cooler air and try to get some hydration in your system. Spray yourself with cool water, but don’t jump into an ice bath, which might traumatize your system, he said. 

“Start cooling off,” he said. “Remove excess clothing. Put a cool towel on your neck and your armpits.”

If you are experiencing signs of heatstroke, call 911.

“Where that kind of turns into heatstroke is really when you’ve stopped sweating,” he said. “You go from being cold and pale to being really hot, like 103 body temperature. It’s pretty serious.

“Children and infants are at a significantly increased risk of things like heatstroke,” Spain said, adding that people often assume if the adults are fine, so are children and babies.

“That’s really not the case. Children, and babies especially, are exponentially more susceptible to heat than we are,” he said. “So when we’re really, really hot, we’ve go to recognize that they’re well past that point most likely. And unfortunately, they’re just not able to identify that in themselves. We as caregivers really have to pay extra close attention to that.”

In addition to children, seniors and anyone who is ill are also more susceptible to heat-related illness.

Whenever he talks about the dangers of extreme heat, Spain said he always remind people not to leave children and babies in parked vehicles — not even with the windows down and for just a few minutes.

“You can see a 19-degree increase in that vehicle in just 10 minutes, even on a mild day when it’s nothing like this,” he said. “(Children) overheat three to five times faster. So even with the windows down, sitting in a parking lot of something like that, or if you’re waiting somewhere and you don’t have air conditioning, you can still see some pretty risky issues there.”

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. She covers public safety, the courts, homelessness, domestic violence and other social issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald