According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health (DPH), there have been 1,205 heat-related hospital emergency department visits reported since May 1, 2020. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is encouraging people to take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, especially on hot days.
Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, overheating, heat illness or even death. From May 1 to Aug. 31, 2019, there were 3,692 emergency department visits for heat-related illness, similar to the summers of 2017 and 2018. Patients presenting at emergency departments with heat-related illnesses are mostly male, ages 45 to 64, and most have been seen in hospitals in North Carolina’s Piedmont and Coastal regions. Common activities noted in emergency department visits were working outdoors and recreation.
NCDHHS public health experts encourage those who must be outdoors during the summer heat to take extra precautions by increasing fluid intake and reducing normal activity levels.
Individuals should stay wary of signs of 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:
There may be cooling assistance available for those who are eligible:
The heat report describes the number of emergency department visits as reported by NC DETECT, the state’s Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool. The statewide surveillance system was created in 2004 by DPH in collaboration with the Carolina Center for Health Informatics in the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine.
For more information on how to prevent heat-related health issues, or to sign up to receive the weekly North Carolina Heat Report via email, go to epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/climate/heat.html.
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