ERs, advocates brace for heat's toll on city's homeless

Doctors warn heat puts homeless at risk

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Staff with Portland-based agencies like Transition Projects, Inc. and Catholic Charities started their routes around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to spread the word about cooling centers, air-conditioned shelters and how to find them.

“Letting them know what line to take how to get there, especially if they're coming from other parts of the city that aren't downtown,” said Guillermo Rebolledo, with TPI.

Still, he added staffers working in these “mobile teams” are aware most homeless campers, open to shelters, would have already gone to them.

Those still on the streets, he said, tend to steer clear.

“We don't push it on individuals,” he said.

Doctors, though, are more than ready to push people into seeking shelter, and they’ll keep pushing for several days.

“Even though today and tomorrow are going to be the hottest days, heat stroke can still develop when the temperatures are in the 90's,” said Dr. Tovi Anderson of OHSU. “People are still at risk for heat stroke.”

Andrew Bunnell is aware of that risk.

“I've had issues with the heat before,” said Bunnell, who’s been homeless since he was 13. “That was last year in Las Vegas, and I almost passed out because of the heat,” he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.

If you spot any of these symptoms, doctors recommend you:

  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.

For a list of cooling centers in Portland click here

© 2017 KGW-TV


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