More people are turning to hospitals and emergency rescue services as a heat wave continues to cook Northeast Florida.
The number of heat-related calls to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has nearly doubled — from 41 in the first week of August last year to 78 this year, the agency said Wednesday.
July was not much better. Fire Rescue received 202 calls this July compared with 155 last year.
Many people have gone straight to the hospital. HCA Florida Memorial Hospital says it treated 37 people for heat-related cases from July 1 to Aug. 8 this year, up from 13 during the same time last year.
Summer 2023 has proven to be one of the hottest in memory. Temperatures have persisted in the high 90s for weeks, with the heat index — the “feels-like” temperature — rising above 110 on many days.
The average high temperature in Jacksonville hit 95 degrees in July, 3 degrees higher than normal, according to the National Weather Service. Eight days reached 98 or above.
So far this month, the average high has come to 94 degrees, 2 degrees higher than last August.
The temperature was still 99 degrees at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, according to the Weather Service.
Dr. Jimmy Dourado, a board-certified family medicine physician, says staying hydrated is one of the keys to staying safe.
“This can most of the time be achieved with pre-hydration,” Dourado said. “So if you drink plenty of water before going out, you allow the body to prepare itself to prime the body to have to overcome higher temperatures outdoors.”
The general rule for hydrating while outside is to drink about a cup of water every 20 minutes. Another way to prevent a heat-related illness is to stay out of the sun as much as possible and find shade.
Excessive sweating is one of the first symptoms to look out for with heat exhaustion, Dourado says.
“This can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, body aches and, in some circumstances, we have already an onset of headache, which kind of gives us a red flag that something may not be going right,” Dourado says.
With heat stroke, which is more serious, symptoms include reduced sweating, red skin color and higher body temperatures.
To help people cool down, the city of Jacksonville recently announced that six cooling centers would be open on days when the city deals with intense heat. Forty-one people used the cooling centers Monday, the first day they were open, the city says. The number jumped to 78 on Tuesday.
The Main Library Downtown was the most-used: 21 people on Monday and 47 on Tuesday.
The cooling centers probably will remain in demand. High temperatures are forecast in the upper 90s the rest of this week. A heat index up to 109 is predicted Thursday.
Reporter Dan Scanlan contributed to this report.