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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to prepare for “extreme heat” this summer by staying cool, hydrated, and informed.
“No one should die from a heat wave, but every year on average, extreme heat causes 658 deaths in the United States-more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined,” said Robin Ikeda, MD, MPH, acting director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Taking common sense steps in extreme temperatures can prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.”
Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and cool themselves properly. Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly, children, the poor or homeless, persons who work or exercise outdoors, and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
A study released Thursday in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 7,233 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2009. An analysis of 2012 data indicates that deaths are on the rise. In a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in four states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009. More than two thirds of the deaths (69 percent) occurred at home, and 91 percent of those homes lacked air conditioning. Most of those who died were unmarried or living alone, and 72 percent were male.
According to CDC’s Environmental Tracking Network from 1999 to 2009 three states, Arizona, California, and Texas accounted for approximately 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the United States. Across the nation, heat-related deaths occur more frequently among males and among adults aged 65 and older.
CDC recommends that local governments engage in advanced planning and preparation to minimize deaths from extreme heat events and to heighten public awareness about the dangers of excessive heat exposure. Advance planning should include increasing access to air conditioning, cooling stations or other public locations that can be used by residents for temporary relief from heat, particularly when temperatures are elevated for several consecutive days.
“Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. Taking steps to stay cool, hydrated and informed in extreme temperatures can prevent serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Ethel Taylor, DVM, MPH, the study’s lead author.
Published: June 13, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 09