By Tippi Rasp Staff Writer

A rise in the mercury has meant a rise in the number of heat-related visits to at least one Enid emergency room.

Hot temperatures also mean those who are working outside have to stay hydrated and aware of signs their bodies may be overheating.

The number of patients being treated for heat exhaustion at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center has increased in the past few weeks. From July 1 through midday Monday, medical professionals had treated four patients for heat exhaustion.

"We have seen an increase," said Cyndy Shepherd, St. Mary's spokeswoman. "Those were mostly people who worked outside. They simply got too hot."

However, Enid Fire Department hasn't seen a rise in emergency medical calls due to the heat, an EFD spokesman said. Records show firefighters have been called to a number of medical emergencies recently, but during cooler morning hours.

Enid Police Department Capt. Jim Nivison said officers have been making sure they stay hydrated while on patrol. On assignments, Nivison said supervisors are making sure to rotate personnel to combat the heat.

Those working in the heat can expect some relief, as temperatures today are forecast in the 80s, according to Eyewitness News 5's meteorologist Rick Mitchell. Mitchell also said skies will be cloudy, with a chance for storms.

However, the summer is far from over, and residents should be aware of what can happen if they find themselves getting too hot.

Shawn Rogers, emergency medical service director for Oklahoma State Department of Health, urged people to contact a health provider if they experience signs of heat stress, such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, nausea, cramps, throbbing headache, no sweating, chest pain, great weakness, mental changes, breathing problems or vomiting.

Low-income households that need help running an air conditioner can get assistance from Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

About $2 million in federal funds will be available through DHS after Aug. 1, when the department starts taking applications for Summer Cooling Program. People who live alone can get $110, with $165 going to households of more than one person.

Households must be below an income guideline. For a four-person household, net income can be up to $1,728 per month to qualify for the benefit.

Oklahoma Indian tribes also have cooling assistance programs for members.

Promoters of Enid's Fans and Blankets for Friends projects are asking for contributions to purchase fans for individuals who have no way to cool their homes.

People who need a fan may contact Sandra Beasley Independent Living Center at 237-8508.

Fans will be distributed with priority given to families with illness, seniors, disabled people, small children, expectant mothers and homebound individuals.

Cash donations to purchase fans may be made to Security National Bank for Fans/Blankets for Friends, P.O. Box 1272, Enid, OK 73702. Fans and Blankets for Friends is a project of Civitan Club of Enid.

CNHI Oklahoma reporter Luke Engan contributed to this story.

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