Heat Health Dangers Rise with Temperatures
Everywhere you go in southwest New Mexico this week, you feel it, think it, and probably say it in one form or another: “It’s hot.” We’re experiencing temperatures at or near record breaking highs this week. June is historically the hottest month in our part of the country. That mean it’s the time of the year again for us to take extra precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke in the borderland.
The people at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, people with existing chronic diseases such as heart disease, and area residents without access to air conditioning.
The very young are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke in one particular circumstance: being left in hot cars.
It happens every year in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports in 52 percent of cases where children died due to heatstroke in America between the years 1998-2013, the caregiver reported “forgetting” the child was even in the vehicle.
“It may be tempting not to ‘wake the sleeping baby’ for a quick trip inside the store, but the fact is young children are at greater risk for heatstroke than adults,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Retta Ward, MPH. “Their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults, and anyone can become ill from heat if their body can't compensate for it and properly cool them off.”
Two children have died in New Mexico from heatstroke after being left in hot cars over the last five years. In the United States, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related deaths in vehicles for children 14 and younger.
So how do we protect our children? The Safe Kids Coalition as three great tips for New Mexicans to help reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke. Remember to A.C.T.:
A: Avoid heatstroke related injury and death by never leaving your child (or even your pet) alone in a car, not even for a minute. Make sure to keep your car locked when you are not in it so kids don't get in on their own unattended.
C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of the car next to your child, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you are not following your normal routine.
T: Take Action. If you see a child alone in a car, dial 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
Remember not to just look out for very young or the elderly – look out for yourself.
You can be super healthy and in your prime and still get sick from the heat if you take part in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. I speak from experience. This weekend, I helped my friends move. I didn’t stay hydrated and I withered like a flower – only faster. It was a good reminder for me to take care of myself, and so I pass it on to you.
The New Mexico Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises you to take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
- Stay cool indoors; do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
- Drink more water than usual.
- Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
- Replace salt and minerals.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
- Pace yourself.
- Monitor people at high risk.
- Do not leave pets or children in cars.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.