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Health officials urge Marylanders stay cool this summer; report first 2024 heat death

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Health officials urge Marylanders stay cool this summer; report first 2024 heat death

Jun 06, 2024 | 4:56 pm ET
By Danielle J. Brown
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Health officials urge Marylanders stay cool this summer; report first 2024 heat death
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Maryland has been working to implement worker heat protections since 2020. Photo by Batuhan Toker/Getty Images Plus.

The Maryland Department of Health is urging residents to stay cool and practice heat safety measures following the first report of a heat-related death this year.

The department said Wednesday that a 59-year-old Prince George’s County man had died due to heat-related causes, and it urged Marylanders to take a few steps to avoid heat-related illnesses heading into the summer months.

“This tragedy reminds us to take the necessary steps to avoid overheating,” Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Nilesh Kalyanaraman said in the Wednesday statement. “Also, be sure to check on family, friends, and neighbors who may be particularly vulnerable to heat, including young children, senior citizens and people with chronic diseases.”

The Maryland Department of Health tracks the number of heat-related deaths each year during a specific monitoring period, which runs from May through September.

In 2023, there were nine total heat-related deaths in the state, which is up from five deaths in 2022. But that is a fraction of some recent years, with 28 reported in 2018 and 46 in 2014, according to historic data from the health department.

It said Marylanders working or spending time outside should try to schedule physical activities in the morning or early evening when temperatures tend to be cooler. Residents should also wear sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, and drink plenty of fluids, while avoiding alcohol, caffeine and “overly-sweetened beverages.”

Children and pets should not be left in the car on a hot day even with the windows cracked, according to the department.

“Always check twice to ensure that children or pets are not in a vehicle—on an 80-degree day, within one-half hour, the temperature inside the vehicle can climb to well over 100 degrees,” the Wednesday press release says.

Heat exposure can lead to serious health conditions, some of which are fatal.

Painful muscle cramps can be brought on during physical activities in extreme heat, due to the loss of electrolytes and fluids that occurs when sweating, according to the department. People should also watch for signs of heat exhaustion, which includes headaches, extreme weakness, nausea and potentially fainting.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that heat stroke is the “most serious heat-related illness” and occurs when body temperature rises rapidly and is unable to cool down. Symptoms can include confusion, seizures, loss of consiousness, and profuse sweating, among others.

Heat stroke can lead to permanent organ damage, neurological dysfunction, or death if the affected person does not receive emergency treatment.