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DHHS Reports N.C.’s Record-Breaking Temperatures Cause Increase in Hospital Visits

Highest Numbers Recorded From Adults Between 25 and 64 Years Old

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
News Release - July 2, 2012
Contact: Julie Henry, DHHS Public Affairs, 919-855-4840

RALEIGH - North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia cautions that even routine outdoor activities can be dangerous during extreme heat. DHHS reports that the triple digit temperatures over the weekend sent more than 150 North Carolinians to emergency departments for treatment of heat-related illness. According to data collected from Friday to Sunday in hospitals across the state, the majority of illness occurred in adults between 25 and 64 years old.

“These are people who are out exercising, doing yard work or recreational activities and those who have jobs that keep them outdoors,” Delia said. “It is extremely important to remember that anyone can be susceptible to heat illness, so we all need to take precautions when temperatures are high.”

With temperatures expected to remain high through the remainder of the week, including the 4th of July holiday, DHHS issues the following safety reminders:

  • Know the symptoms of heat stroke -- high body temperature, dry skin (no sweating), rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, cool your body temperature (like cold showers or water) and seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Limit your time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when the day is hottest.
  • Drink plenty of water or fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • If you live in a home without fans or air conditioning, open windows to allow air flow, and keep shades, blinds or curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day or when the windows are in direct sunlight. Try to spend at least part of the day in an air conditioned place like a shopping mall, a store, the library, a friend’s house, or the movies.
  • Electric fans may be useful to increase comfort and to draw cool air into your home at night, but do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during a heat wave. A cool shower or bath is more effective way to cool off.
  • Never leave a child, a disabled or elderly person, or a pet in an unattended car, even with the windows down. A closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in as little as 10 minutes.

High temperatures and power outages resulting from weekend storms make it especially important for caregivers and friends to check on elderly relatives and neighbors who may not have relief from the heat. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly at high risk of heat-related illnesses and death.

“Anyone who visits or cares for a senior can help to see that they are safe,” Delia said. “That may mean something as simple as ensuring they have plenty of water available or offering a ride to an air conditioned place such as the local senior center.”

DHHS monitors heat-related illness activity at emergency departments during the summer months through the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT). NC DETECT was created by the North Carolina Division of Public Health (NC DPH) in 2004 in collaboration with the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine. Weekly updates are posted each Wednesday at http://www.publichealth.nc.gov/chronicdiseaseandinjury/heat.htm

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