Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and cool themselves properly. Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly, children, the poor or homeless, persons who work or exercise outdoors, and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
A study released today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 7,233 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2009. An analysis of 2012 data indicates that deaths are on the rise. In a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in four states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009. More than two thirds of the deaths (69 percent) occurred at home, and 91 percent of those homes lacked air conditioning. Most of those who died were unmarried or living alone, and 72 percent were male.
According to CDC’s Environmental Tracking Network from 1999 to 2009 three states, Arizona, California, and Texas accounted for approximately 40 percent of all heat-related deaths in the United States. Across the nation, heat-related deaths occur more frequently among males and among adults aged 65 and older.
CDC recommends that local governments engage in advanced planning and preparation to minimize deaths from extreme heat events and to heighten public awareness about the dangers of excessive heat exposure. Advance planning should include increasing access to air conditioning, cooling stations or other public locations that can be used by residents for temporary relief from heat, particularly when temperatures are elevated for several consecutive days.
“Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. Taking steps to stay cool, hydrated and informed in extreme temperatures can prevent serious health effects like heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Ethel Taylor, DVM, MPH, the study’s lead author.
CDC is offering new resources, including a new website to prepare for extreme heat, new data on heat-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and a Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events guidebook. The new resources not only provide prevention information; but also, data to illustrate the devastating impact extreme heat exposure can exert on a person’s daily life.
New Resources on Extreme Heat
- Extreme Heat and Your Health Website: This new page collects CDC resources on extreme heat in one place and provides information on how to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths for a variety of audiences. The site can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/
- Environmental Public Health Tracking Data: CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network introduces new data on heat-stress hospitalizations and emergency room visits from 2000-2011. This adds to the records already available on extreme temperatures, heat-related deaths, and social and environmental conditions that make people vulnerable to extreme heat. Decision makers can use these data to plan how and where to focus efforts to protect the public from extreme heat. The Tracking Network can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/ephtracking.
- Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events Guidebook: This recently released guidebook for state and local health departments describes how to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events and explains how the frequency, duration, and severity of these events are increasing as a result of climate change. An audio file for the recent CDC extreme heat event webinar is also available for tips and guidance. The guidebook is available at http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/ClimateChangeandExtremeHeatEvents.pdf
The webinar archive can be accessed at: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/meetingArchive?eventId=qozysq4qk56y
- Workplace Solutions Bulletin: This recently released NIOSH bulletin provides updated statistics, case studies and recommendations for workers and employers to follow in order to reduce the risk of heat-related illness when working outdoors. The report provides specific guidance, examples and it adds to the available resources that illustrate how extreme heat exposures can lead to occupational illnesses and injuries and possible death. The NIOSH resources are available at:
For more information on extreme heat and heat safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit www.cdc.gov/extremeheat.