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Heat advisories continue in Florida. Hospitals treat related illnesses, with visitors feeling brunt

Central Florida hospitals are seeing patients with heat-related illnesses as the temperatures get hotter, with one hospital receiving more patients from outside Florida.

Forecasters are calling for another week of hot weather in Florida, and as temperatures rise, so does the potential for heat-related illnesses.

Swaths of Florida are expected to see record-setting temperatures this week until Friday.

A three-day heat advisory was issued Monday for all of South Florida through Wednesday night by the National Weather Service. The counties include Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe.

Previous heat advisories have been issued by the day, including Saturday.

In West Florida, Monday heat warnings were issued for much of the region, including Polk, Hardee, Highlands, DeSoto, and inland Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Lee and Charlotte.

Forecasters are citing Saharan dust that will limit thunderstorms and coastal breezes that cool off the region.

In South Florida, the region's heat index, which indicates what the temperature feels like, ranged from 105 to 109 degrees on Saturday afternoon, the NWSsaid. Health experts deem a heat index above 103 degrees as dangerous.

That's expected to continue through the week. The Miami heat index is forecast to reach 105 over the next three days, with actual highs in the low 90s.

In Miami, this year has proven to be the hottest on record. The city has already broken 15 record daily temperatures — seven of which took place in June, according to member station WLRN.

That is especially dangerous for the region's outdoor workers, who number more than 100,000 people, WLRN reported.

In the Tampa Bay area, Thursday marked the second day of heat advisories. On Friday, record warm lows were reported in Sarasota (83 degrees), Ruskin (78) and Punta Gorda (77).

In Northeast Florida, the heat over the past week has been well above average. Friday marked five of the past six days with heat advisories for the Jacksonville area.

Florida isn’t the only place to see unusual heat as of late. Over the past week, the average global air temperature on several days appeared to be the hottest on record, going back to 1979, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Heat will continue early this week across much of Southwest. The weather service says there will be highs over 100 across the southern High Plains and Southwest, with higher temperatures possible over Arizona.

Visitors and heat illness

Orange County Fire Rescue responded to about 20 calls related to heat illnesses over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The University of Central Florida's Lake Nona Hospital has seen an increase in patients with symptoms associated with heat-related illness, said Michelle Wallen, the emergency room medical director. Although the increases she's seen are not Floridians.

“More of the heat-related injuries are probably more from the visitors that are not acclimated with the weather down here,” she said. "And there are a lot more people coming down and visiting now at this time. I think more so surprisingly during this summer than previous years."

AdventHealth reported a 50 percent increase in patients exhibiting heat-related illness symptoms. However, the hospital said that’s about normal for this time of the year.

Identifying heat illness

Heat stroke: At this point, a person is not sweating anymore. Their skin becomes dry and body temperatures rise greater than 103 to 104 degrees. The person becomes confused and can develop headaches. They may start to have nausea and vomiting and can get as bad as even having seizures.

Heat exhaustion: It's not as severe as heat stroke, but it's still considered an emergency. Heat exhaustion begins when the body temperature is greater than 100 degrees. At this point, a person is going to be profusely sweating. They may also have nausea and vomiting. Headaches may be a symptom, and they may also be confused as well.

Heat cramps: The body begins to tighten muscles to painful degrees due to a person not taking in enough water or electrolytes.

Protecting yourself

Wallen, at Lake Nona Hospital, wants to send a reminder to visitors who have not adjusted to the Florida sun to drink water.

“Even when you don't feel thirsty, it's super important, so that you don't get dehydrated," she said. "You're definitely here in Orlando to have a good time, but if you're going to drink your alcohol, be aware that this is something else that can cause you to get dehydrated.”

The Florida Department of Health has these tips for anyone hanging out in the sun:

  • Know the signs of heat-related illness, which can include headaches, dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, irritability, confusion, an upset stomach, or vomiting.
  • Seek shade and air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear a sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF to protect from harmful ultraviolet rays. Be sure to reapply sunscreen often.
  • Never leave children, vulnerable individuals, or pets unattended in a vehicle.
Joe Mario Pedersen