PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland could see triple-digit temperatures for several days in a row starting Saturday and local urgent care clinics are preparing for the illnesses that could result from the heat.
“The predictions of 105, 106, 107, 108-degree temperatures this weekend are terrifying, quite honestly, to me,” said Dr. Christian Molstrom, medical director for Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care.
He said now’s the time to start preparing for the heat. People should have a place to stay that’s cool, have plenty of hydrating fluids on hand, and make weekend plans that don’t involve a lot of exertion.
Molstrom said there are about five different types of heat-related illnesses people should watch out for: sunburn, heat rash, cramping, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
While things such as sunburn, heat rash, and cramping are typically not too serious, Molstrom said he is fairly concerned about heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
“Heat exhaustion is a feeling of just general illness and so, you might have those muscle cramps we just talked about,” he said. “You may even want to vomit, a headache, passing out, or feeling like you want to pass out are all signs.”
For anyone experiencing these symptoms, Molstrom recommends visiting an urgent clinic so medical staff can check vital signs and make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on.
He said if anyone starts experiencing neurological symptoms, things like confusion, disorientation, or a feeling of intoxication, as a result of the heat, they should call 911 right away. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that people can die from.
In addition to paying attention to the heat index, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding strenuous activities, Molstrom also recommends people take time to check the side effects of medications. He said some medications, like pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan, can cause symptoms that mimic heat exhaustion.
He also warned that antidepressants and antipsychotic medications can cause elevations in body temperature, which could make the hot weather even more dangerous for some people.
“This is just a time to pause and ask yourself, ‘Boy, you know I’m on three medications for, you know, I’ve got a depression medication and I’m on a cough medication, boy, maybe I should check in with my doctor and make sure that it’s OK that I’m taking all these,’” Molstrom said.
He reminded people that illicit drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine are especially dangerous in the heat because they increase the body’s metabolism.
Molstrom also said that as tempting as “cracking open a cold one” might be on a hot day, people really need to be careful with their alcohol consumption. Alcohol is not a hydrating beverage and can actually cause people to urinate more frequently, which can lead to dehydration faster. He said if you do decide to drink alcohol, make sure it’s paired with plenty of water or a sports drink.
Molstrom said if someone can’t leave their house and they don’t have air conditioning, they should consider putting cold towels or ice packs on their body to keep cool.
“Almost all heat-related illnesses are preventable and that’s the key thing, preventable with just understanding the warning signs and with understanding how you can prepare for this,” he said.