Maryland reports the first heat-related death this year
Health officials remind residents to stay cool
After the state reported its first heat-related death last week, local health officials are asking residents to watch out for warning signs of heat-induced illnesses as more high-temperature days approach this summer.
The first heat-related death reported this year in Maryland was a Prince George’s County man who was between 18 and 44 years old, the Maryland Department of Health said last week.
Last year, Maryland saw five heat-related deaths from May through September, according to the state’s health department. In Calvert and St. Mary’s, no heat-related death have occurred in the past five years. Charles County had one such death in 2016.
As days become hotter over the summer, health experts stress that extreme heat can be dangerous as heat raises body temperature, which can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke if the body is not able to properly cool itself.
When someone has heatstroke, “the core temperature in your body rises to 104 or 105 degrees,” Greg Ford, public health emergency planner for the St. Mary’s Health Department, said Tues- day in a phone interview. At that point, he said “your body doesn’t sweat anymore … because you don’t have any water left to create sweat.”
As the most serious heat-related illness, heatstrokes can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Heat exhaustion, in comparison, is less severe but can be felt in forms of cramps, nausea and other symptoms. It can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Nationwide, heat kills more than 600 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, dozens of children die in closed cars on hot days.
“Don’t leave children or pets in the car,” Ford said. “We are very much against that, even if it’s a short trip to the grocery store.”
On a regular 80-degree summer day, temperatures inside a car can rise to 120 degrees in 45 minutes. About 760 children have died in closed cars since 1998, according to noheatstroke.org, an organization that tracks the number of deaths of children left in hot cars. A 17-month-old boy died in September 2014 after he was mistakenly left for hours in a car at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
“Children and pets are especially vulnerable,” Ford said. “They can get sick a lot quicker.”
The health department recommends drivers “keep something you need in the back seat” — essential items like a cellphone, briefcase, computer, ID, license or even shoes. Parents are also advised to lock their car doors to prevent children from climbing into an unlocked car. In addition to children, the elderly, outdoor workers, athletes, people with chronic conditions and those who live in low-income households are all vulnerable groups.
In hot summer days, Ford said the No. 1 commonsense tip is to stay hydrated.
“When you think you drink enough water, drink more,” he said. “Especially when it’s hot, you can’t have too much water.”
Calvert’s Deputy Health Officer Champ Thomaskutty asks residents to remember wearing sunscreen for skin protection and avoiding getting sun burns, which affect the body’s ability to cool itself down.
“Minimize your sun exposure,” Thomaskutty said. “If you are outside, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.”
People should also take frequent breaks under the shade or find public cooling shelters to cool off if they don’t have air-conditioning at home.
For more safety tips, visit https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/resources_hot.aspx.