Tractor-Trailer Heat Simulation Shows Health Risks

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WESLACO - With summer temperatures, symptoms of heat exhaustion can show in just minutes. A typical trailer with aluminum walls and ceiling can turn into an oven.

Monday morning, CHANNEL 5 NEWS reporter Frank McCaffrey spent a half hour inside a tractor-trailer in Weslaco as it reached 113 degrees. 

The thought of spending a half hour inside of a 53-foot dry van is frightening to most. But CHANNEL 5 NEWS played it safe, with three paramedics standing by and a supply of water outside of the truck.

McCaffrey boarded the trailer, the door was locked shut and within minutes he said he felt the heat.

"I've been in here about five minutes now, I've loosened up my collar, I'm sweating profusely," he said.

As time went on, McCaffrey and photographer Jen Galvan searched certain parts of the trailer to see where it was cooler. But they found it was hot all around.

"We are approaching the 20 minute mark. Again, I am sweating profusely. I am feeling some dizziness when I get up and walk around. I'm feeling a little bit dehydrated and I am, at this point, dreaming about that bottle of water we have outside of this trailer," said McCaffrey.

As they counted down the last 10 minutes, McCaffrey's face was flushed and showing signs of heat exhaustion. Finally, covered in sweat, McCaffrey alerted the paramedics it was time to get out. McCaffrey was a little dizzy as he exited, but he and his photographer got out safely. They quickly hydrated themselves with water.

The paramedics report McCaffrey's pulse jumped during the half hour he was inside the trailer from a normal 100 beats per minute to 113. His blood pressure also went from 132/90 to a somewhat alarming 140/100. 

Certainly, the situation would have been more dangerous if McCaffrey and his photographer were in the trailer much longer with hotter afternoon temperatures.

Weslaco EMT Daniel Gallegos said it's relatively easy to spot the signs of heat stroke early. The symptoms include profuse sweating and anxiety. Symptoms of a more serious heat stroke include nausea, headaches and dizziness.

He said there are steps to take immediately.

"First of all, you want to remove that patient from the environment they're in. That'll itself bring the body temperature down. And start the process of relieving that heat exhaustion," said Gallegos.

Gallegos advised to get a heat exhausted person to a place where there is good ventilation and hydrate them with water as soon as possible.


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