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Kansas City emergency rooms see heat-related visits double amid record high temperatures

There is an excessive heat warning for this weekend as high heat and humidity will drive the index up to 110 degrees in some parts of Kansas City.
Jeff Roberson
An excessive heat warning in Kansas City continues until Friday night but record highs have already sent an unusually high number of people to metro emergency rooms.

As temperatures reach the triple digits across Kansas City, more people are going to hospital emergency rooms than in previous years. Doctors share the common symptoms people report and what can be done to avoid a similar outcome.

On days when the temperatures surpass 90 degrees, emergency departments usually see spikes in people coming in — but this summer, there have been double the number of patients reporting heat-related health issues.

Emergency room visits peaked in Jackson County with 11 on July 28 and 13 on August 19, the hottest days of each month, according to a report compiled by the county health department. And that number only scratches the surface across the metro. Johnson County Med-ACT reported nine calls for assistance Saturday from the Air Show in Gardner and an additional 14 unrelated to the event over the weekend.

This week, temperatures are creeping into the triple digits with real-feel temperatures even higher, and the heat wave is expected to stick around until the weekend.

“We're trying to encourage people to plan ahead,” said Joe Folsom of Johnson County Med-ACT. “If you know that you have to work outside — some people cant avoid that — make sure that you prepare.”

There have been 147 total heat-related emergency visits in Jackson County this summer, with an average patient age of 44 years. The number of patients going to the emergency department on especially hot days this year is double that of 2021 and 2022.

The Jackson County report said possible reasons for this include changes in behavior as residents return to pre-pandemic habits. Erratic weather and heavy AC use might also lead the body to struggle to acclimatize to the extreme heat.

Spending time outside can gradually increase heat tolerance, but doctors recommend exercising caution when temperatures are especially high.

“Heat exhaustion can happen fast with little warning,” said Steve Lammers, the preparedness manager for Jackson County Public Health. “Limiting time outdoors may be necessary until cooler weather this weekend.”

If people need to be outside, they should wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; limit strenuous activity and stay hydrated.

Warning signs of heat stroke or heat-related illness include nausea, headache, lightheadedness and fatigue, among others. If you or someone you know develops these symptoms, take immediate action to lower your body temperature and get hydrated.

Removing extra clothing; sitting in a cold tub of water or placing cold wet towels on your neck, forehead and under your arms all help lower body temperature. If the condition gets worse or does not improve, seek immediate medical assistance.

For residents without easy access to air conditioning, several places across the metro are keeping doors open so people can cool down for free.

Libraries, public transportation and several community centers are operating as cooling centers across the Kansas City area. Here are some of the places open to the public during the heat advisory:

Kansas City, Missouri

All of the Mid-Continent Public Librariesand Kansas City Public Libraries are offering their branches as cooling centers. All cooling services are available during normal hours of operation.

Community center locations (open during normal business hours):

  • Brush Creek Community Center, 3801 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd.
  • Garrison Community Center, 1124 E. 5th St.
  • Gregg/Klice Community Center, 1124 E 5th Street
  • Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Road
  • Kansas City North Community Center, 3920 N.E. Antioch Road
  • Line Creek Community Center, 5940 N.W. Waukomis Drive
  • Marlborough Community Center, 8200 The Paseo Blvd.
  • Southeast Community Center, 4201 E. 63rd St.
  • Tony Aguirre Community Center, 2050 W. Pennway St.
  • Westport Roanoke Community Center, 3601 Roanoke Road

In addition to community centers, many of the city’s swimming pools and spray grounds are open:

  • Blue Valley Park Sprayground, East 23rd Street and Topping Avenue 
  • Central Park Sprayground, Linwood Boulevard and Bales Avenue
  • Douglas Park Sprayground, 2632 Jarboe Street
  • Gillham Sprayground, East 41st Street and Gillham Avenue 
  • Harmony Park Sprayground, East 10th Street and Agnes Avenue 
  • Loose Park Sprayground, West 52nd Terrace and Summit Street 
  • Lykins Square Playground, East 8th Street and Jackson Avenue 
  • Parade Park Sprayground, East 17th Terrace and The Paseo Boulevard
  • Spring Valley Park Sprayground, East 28th Street and Spring Valley Park Road 
  • Sunnyside Park Sprayground, 8255 Summit Street

Some pools in the metro have closed early this week to avoid the excessive heat, though, so check before you go.

Public transportation:

Beating the heat can be as easy as getting on a Kansas City Area Transportation Authority bus or the Kansas City streetcar to cool down while taking a ride somewhere else or even back to the same spot. The streetcar and buses are free to ride.

Independence, Missouri

Independence has offered Roger T. Sermon Community Center, 201 N. Dodgion Ave., as a cooling center on Aug. 23 and 24.

There are also spraygrounds and splash pads located at 24 Highway and North Delaware and 24th and Hardy.

Clay County, Missouri

  • The Salvation Army, Northland Location, 5306 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City
  • North Kansas City YMCA, 1999 Iron Street, North Kansas City
  • Salvation Army, 108 W Broadway Street, Excelsior Springs
  • Liberty Community Center, 1600 S Withers Road, Liberty

Johnson County, Kansas

All of 14 locations in the Johnson County Library system are offering their buildings as cooling centers. A list of branches and operating hours is available here.

There are also three splash pads available:

  • Thompson Park, 8045 Santa Fe Dr.
  • Roe Park, 10400 Roe Ave.
  • Sapling Grove Park, 8210 Grant St.

Wyandotte County, Kansas

Wyandotte County is offering avariety of community centers, pools and splash parks as cooling centers.

As KCUR's health reporter, I cover the Kansas City metro in a way that reflects our expanding understanding of what health means and the ways it touches different communities and different areas in distinct ways. I will provide a platform to amplify ideas and issues often underrepresented in the media and marginalized people and communities in an authentic and honest way that goes beyond the surface of the issues. I will endeavor to find and include in my work local experts and organizations that have their ears to the ground and a beat on the health needs of the community. Reach me at noahtaborda@kcur.org.
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