Mary­land re­ports the first heat-re­lated death this year

Health of­fi­cials re­mind res­i­dents to stay cool

The Enterprise - - News - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

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.

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