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Heat-Related Illness Cases on the Rise

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reminds residents to increase your fluid intake, take frequent breaks and spend time in cool or air-conditioned environments as the temperatures rise. Photo: NCDHHS

The state Department of Health and Human Services officials are encouraging residents to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, especially on hot days.

Since May, there have been 1,205 heat-related hospital emergency department visits, the North Carolina Division of Public Health reports. Last year from May 1 to Aug. 31, there were 3,692 emergency department visits for heat-related illness, similar to the summers of 2017 and 2018.

Most patients are 45-64-year-old males, on the coast and in the Piedmont and were working outdoors and recreating when they became ill. Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, overheating, heat illness or even death.

Those that are eligible could receive cooling assistance through the Crisis Intervention Program, a federally funded program that helps those  experiencing a heating or cooling related crisis. Check eligibility and apply through the local Department of Social Services until June 30, 2021.

Another program is Operation Fan Heat Relief, which ends Oct. 31. For more information, call the local Area Agency on Aging.

Heat-related illness symptoms include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Children, older individuals, outdoor workers and those with chronic health conditions are most vulnerable.

To reduce the risk of heat-related illness, DHHS recommends the following precautions:

  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Take frequent breaks in cool and shady or air-conditioned places if spending extended time outside.
  • Reduce normal activity levels.
  • Speak with your physician about how to stay safe if you take medicines that make you more vulnerable to heat, such as tranquilizers or drugs for high blood pressure, migraines, allergies, muscle spasms and mental illness.
  • Check on neighbors, and if working outdoors, check on your co-workers.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles, especially during warm or hot weather, as temperature levels inside a car can reach a deadly level in a matter of minutes.

High heat days may also be poor air quality days that can increase the threat to those living with chronic health conditions, older adults and children. Air quality information can be found online.

Each week, staff in the state Division of Public Health Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch compile and publish the North Carolina Heat Report.  To sign up to receive the weekly North Carolina Heat Report via email, go to the Public Health website.

About the Author

Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.