By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As a registered nurse and death investigator for the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, Paula Johns is troubled after responding to five deaths in the north metro this week, where the heat was likely a factor.

Johns says she has never seen this amount of heat-related illnesses in such a short period of time during her career. She believes people are out of practice checking in on older populations after the pandemic forced us to keep our distance.

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“Check in with your elderly friends, relatives, your neighbors,” she said. “A lot of people are still cautious especially those with health issues,” she added.

But, she says high blood pressure, cardiac and mobility issues can all be more dangerous in hot temperatures.

Hennepin Healthcare has also seen a record number of heat-related sicknesses this month. There have been 13 patients since June 4 of this year in comparison to just six patients last June.

“The odd thing isn’t that it’s happening but how early in the year it’s happening,” Dr. Andrew Laudenbach said.

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Doctor Laudenbach points to the signs that something may be wrong.

“Sweating more, feeling really hot, feeling like your heart is racing. Maybe noting your skin is starting to feel a little cooler and clammy,” he said.

Laudenbach says it’s a good idea to call at least twice a day and if someone doesn’t answer, to stop by.

“Now more than ever we should be paying close attention. Not only to recover from the pandemic but to make sure we’re not missing these signs that could save a life or two,” he said.

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Johns also reminds families to be sure window air conditioning units and fans are installed and in use. Some seniors may not feel the temperature increase the way younger people do.

Liz Collin