Hospitals packed with patients due to heat

June 9, 2011 9:02:24 PM PDT
With temperatures rising, the doctors and nurses at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx are bracing for a long hot summer in the Emergency room.

There has already been a steady flow of patients suffering from the effects of the sun.

Paramedics tell Eyewitness News they've been pushing stretchers in and out of the hospital.

"It's getting busy, everyday we're getting more calls," a paramedic said.

They're getting more calls for heat related complications.

Dr. Ernie Patti is the senior attending physician of emergency medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital.

"Once the heat and humidity rises we get an increase in the people that come in," Dr. Patti said.

One construction worker came in suffering from heat exhaustion.

Doctors are giving him fluids intravenously.

It is one of several things they will do to get him back on his feet.

"We basically spray water over the skin, like this. The water draws heat out of the body, cooling you," Dr. Patti said.

"What they see in the emergency room when the temperature is in the 90's are many patients coming in complaining of dizziness and nausea.

They are classic symptoms of someone suffering the effects of the heat.

As always, doctors like to remind you to drink a lot of water, dress in light colored clothing, and try to plan activities in the early mornings or late evenings.

Of course some people don't have a choice like the construction worker, but his prognosis is good.

Doctors expect hospital beds to be filled every time the weather heats up.

Residents are advised to call their doctor or go to the emergency room right away if they feel sick and are urged keep a close eye on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly. Heat illness symptoms are often not specific and include:

  • Hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, hallucinations, disorientation

    The risk for getting sick during a heat wave is increased for people who:

  • Are younger than five or older than 64
  • Have chronic medical or mental health conditions such as diabetes or substance abuse disorders.
  • Are overweight
  • Take certain medications which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature
  • Are unable to leave their homes or confined to their beds
  • Drink alcohol use drugs which can impair their judgment

    If you have a medical condition or take medication, check with your physician about precautions you should take during hot weather. Family, friends, and neighbors who are at high risk will need extra help during this period of extreme heat. Think about how you can help someone you know get to an air-conditioned place.

    Ready New York - Beat the Heat Tips:

  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a cooler place such as an air-conditioned family's, friend's or neighbor's home, store, mall, museum, or movie theater, or, visit a cooling center.
  • Use a fan if the air is not too hot. Fans work best at night to bring in cooler air from outside. Use a fan only when the air conditioner is on or the windows are open.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.
  • Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. or in the evening. If you exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are used to regular exercise, just keep in mind the symptoms of heat illness when exercising and stop or rest if any occur.
  • Be careful if you take a cold shower to stay cool - sudden temperature changes can make you feel dizzy or sick.
  • Check on your at-risk family, friends and neighbors often and help them get to a cool place.

    Spray Caps & Fire Hydrants:

  • Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is wasteful and dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, which can cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and hinder fire-fighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps. The powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can also push children into oncoming traffic. Call 311 to report an open hydrant.
  • Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a City-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap only puts out around 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by someone 18 or over, free of charge at local firehouses.

    Conserve Energy:

  • During periods of extremely hot and humid weather, electricity use rises, which can cause power disruptions.
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees.
  • Use air conditioners only when you're home, and only in rooms you're using. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer that turns on no more than 30 minutes before you arrive.
  • Turn off nonessential appliances.
  • To receive free notifications about power outages affecting your neighborhood sign up for Notify NYC at

    For more information on coping with extreme heat, see the Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide at For more information on the health effects associated with extreme heat visit