Beat the Heat Before It Beats You

Heat stroke risks lead CDC to issue guidelines for high temperatures

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) When you hear of people dying from extreme weather, most think of tornadoes or hurricanes. But extreme heat actually causes more deaths than any other weather event, according to the CDC, who issued tips on being safe in hot weather.

A recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave advice to help keep people safe during extreme heat. Muscle cramps, heavy sweating, rapid heartbeat, nausea or fainting could be signs of heat stroke

These researchers said people should drink more water than usual and to stay in air conditioning as much as possible. 

And if the heat gets the best of you, seek help immediately.

"Drink plenty of water when outside this summer."

The report, led by David R. Fowler, MD, of the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, looked at 32 deaths in four states that occurred during a heat wave in the summer of 2012 and the risks associated with extreme heat.

The four states were Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

This number of deaths was four times the average of about eight deaths in the same two-week range in those states during previous summers from 1999 to 2009.

Approximately 658 deaths a year in the United States occurred as a result of extreme heat between 1999 and 2009, the authors reported.

The 32 deaths investigated in the report occurred during a two-week period following a series of thunderstorms in 2012.

The thunderstorms had caused many power outages, and temperatures ranged from 83 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit over the following two weeks when many people had no electricity.

Half of those who died were over age 65, and 72 percent were male. Most died from heat exposure in their own homes and were unmarried or living by themselves.

About half of those who died had underlying conditions that likely contributed to their deaths: 14 had cardiovascular disease and four had chronic respiratory disease.

Among the 22 people who died at home, 20 of them lacked air conditioning. In addition, three people died outside, and two died in a vehicle.

When the authors looked at the other 7,233 heat-related deaths from 1999 to 2009, they found that 72 percent of them occurred primarily because the person was exposed to excessive heat.

In the other 28 percent, heat was a contributing factor but there were also other conditions or circumstances involved in the deaths.

The CDC made several recommendations for staying safe during the hot summer.

They recommend staying in an air conditioned place when possible and wearing light, loose clothing.

The most important advice during high temperatures is to stay hydrated by drinking water regularly and avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.

The CDC recommends that individuals stay tuned to local weather and news services for heat-related alerts.

If you or someone you know experiences muscle cramping, heavy sweating, a rapid heartbeat, nausea or fainting, these could be symptoms of heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a serious condition that can be deadly. Seek a doctor's attention or go to the emergency room if you or someone else experiences these symptoms in the severe heat.

This report was published June 7 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 6, 2013
Last Updated:
August 12, 2013