Arkansan Dies; First Heat Death of 2012
The Arkansas Department of Health reported Thursday the first heat-related death of an Arkansas resident this year.
No information about the individual, including age, place of death or gender, could be released due to medical privacy law.
However, in June, a construction worker from Mt. Pleasant, Texas, suffered a heat stroke and died after operating a forklift on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. He was working with crews to install turf on the Razorbacks’ new practice fields.
Officials with the state health department say they are especially concerned for residents during these extremely hot, dry summer months.
“We are especially concerned for the elderly, the very young, anyone with a chronic disease and anyone who is actively working or playing outside in this heat,” said Dirk Haselow, MD, PhD, director for the Communicable Disease branch, ADH. “Those who are living inside without air conditioning are also at risk.”
Seventeen Arkansans died due to heat-related illness in 2011. On average, there are 400 heat-related deaths a year in the U.S.
According to the ADH, when our core body heat gain exceeds the amount we can get rid of the body’s natural defense fails and heat-related illness may develop. The following heat disorders are progressive and should be attended to immediately:
Heat cramps. These are prolonged muscle pains that result from severe salt and magnesium depletion due to heavy sweating. Treatment includes salt replacement, cooling down and gentle massage.
Heat exhaustion. This is the most common illness caused by heat and often occurs while the person is working outside or attending outside events in extremely hot, humid weather. The victim may complain of weakness and feel faint. Other symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion. The person should be moved to a cooler place, and wet cloths applied for cooling down. Fluid and salt should be replaced. Depending on the severity of the illness, hospitalization and intravenous fluid replacement may be necessary. This condition usually comes just before heat stroke.
Heat stroke (also called sunstroke). This is a life-threatening condition in which the victim’s temperature-control system stops working. Sweating is ineffective or stops completely, and the body’s temperature can rise so high that the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be damaged permanently. Death may occur if the body is not cooled quickly. The symptoms of heat stroke include sudden high fever, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency—call 911 and cool the person as fast as you can. Ice, a cold bath, and wet sheets are recommended until medical help arrives.
For more information visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.