Public health officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are advising North Carolinians take precautions to protect themselves, their children and their pets from heat-related illness as temperatures across the state rise and remain high throughout the summer.
Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, overheating, heat illness and even death. To reduce the risk of heat-related illness:
- 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, even for a few minutes, as temperatures inside a car reach a deadly level quickly. In the United States, approximately 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle.
Individuals should stay wary of signs of heat-related illness. Symptoms include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Children, adults 65 and older, those without access to air conditioning, outdoor workers and those with chronic health conditions are most vulnerable. If you or someone you know experiences heat-related illness, move to a cool place, drink water, place cold cloths on the body and seek medical attention.
The North Carolina Heat Report shows there were already 361 emergency department visits for heat-related illness in the season through June 17, 2023. Visits to emergency departments frequently increase with spikes in the heat index. It is important to pay attention to the weather if spending time outside working or participating in recreation activities. Patients presenting at emergency departments with heat-related illnesses are mostly male, ages 25 to 44, and most have been seen in hospitals in North Carolina’s Piedmont and Coastal regions.
To help combat heat-related illnesses, cooling assistance is available for those who are eligible:
- The Crisis Intervention Program is a federally funded program that assists individuals and families who are experiencing a heating or cooling related crisis. Check eligibility and apply by contacting your local Department of Social Services
- Operation Fan Heat Relief is a summer program intended to provide a more comfortable living environment and reduce heat-related illnesses for older adults and adults with disabilities. The program runs through Oct. 31, 2023. For more information, call your local Area Agency on Aging.
For more information on how to prevent heat-related health issues, additional data or to sign up to receive the weekly North Carolina Heat Report via email, go to epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/oee/climate/heat.html.