Oklahomans need to take the state's continuing heat wave more seriously, medical providers warned Monday as officials announced the sixth heat-related death of the year.
A 91-year-old Tulsa woman's death Sunday was attributed to the heat, said Cherokee Ballard, spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's officer. The woman's name was not released Monday. Sunday's high temperature in Tulsa was 107 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Five other deaths officially have been blamed on the heat, and it is suspected as a cause in seven other deaths, Ballard said.
Emergency Medical Services Authority paramedics are responding to about seven heat calls a day, spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said. Whether it's someone working outside who didn't take enough breaks, or a golfer or tennis player who thought they were in good enough shape to cope with the heat, the common thread is water, O'Leary said.
“Most of what we are seeing is patients admitting they didn't realize they needed to drink as much water as they need while outside in this heat,” O'Leary said. “You need two 16-ounce bottles of water an hour.”
Sunday was the 32nd day of 100-plus-degree temperatures in Oklahoma City. The record for a calendar year is 50, set in 1980. Overnight showers kept temperatures down Monday morning, and temperatures stayed in the low- to mid-90s most of the day.
Tuesday's high temperature is expected to be 103 degrees, and temperatures are expected to hit the triple digits through Saturday.
O'Leary said it might seem unusual to guzzle water hours before you start outside activity or carry water with you wherever you go, but such measures aren't overly cautious.
“Oklahomans are groomed to think we can handle these extreme temperatures,” O'Leary said. “But this isn't necessarily what we're used to. This heat wave is extraordinary, and it requires extraordinary behavior.”
EMSA paramedics have responded to about 150 heat calls since June 17, when they issued their first heat alert of the year.
Most patients begin to improve when they are taken out of the heat and given cool packs and intravenous fluid in a cool ambulance. Some need more treatment at a hospital.