TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The heat is here and now that we’re seeing temperatures in the double digits, health officials are warning about heat-related deaths and illnesses.
June through August are the peak months for heat-related deaths. The heat affects everyone differently, but here in Pima County we typically see the highest number of heat deaths in migrants.
“People are being pushed into more isolated areas, which makes it harder for them to get help. It’s hard for people to find them. When we get to temperatures like this, they have very little time before they succumb to the heat,” said Kat Rodriguez, a committee member with The Migrant Trail.
The heat is nothing new in Arizona, but each year it takes hundreds of lives. Last year, more than 550 died across the state due to the heat.
So far this year in Pima County, there have been seven heat-related deaths, all but one in migrants.
Rodriguez said there are likely many more.
“Looking at the numbers from Pima County tells you how many remains have been recovered. It doesn’t actually tell you how many people have died,” she said. “Some people might die today and not be found for some time. So, heat-related deaths are probably higher than what we’re seeing.”
The Pima County Health Department said there are a number of other populations the heat takes a toll on as well.
″There are certain groups that are more at risk of health-related illnesses than others: the elderly, people on certain medications that may prevent them from regulating as a normal person would,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Greg Hess. “They (are) more susceptible to heat-related problems.”
But when it comes down to it, the PCHD said the heat can severely impact anyone who isn’t taking the right precautions. They say 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. is the hottest part of the day, and yet people are still out hiking and putting themselves at risk.
“It’s really easy to do especially in southern Arizona,” said division manager Louie Valenzuela. “The body can heat up to temperatures of over a 105 within 10 to 15 minutes if you’re in direct sunlight. We want to make sure that anyone that starts feeling headaches or cramping or dizziness, that they recognize those signs and symptoms of heat exposure really quickly, start to hydrate themselves and move themselves to cooler temperatures as quick as possible.”
One of the most important things for anyone out in the heat is to stay hydrated. The PCHD recommends drinking one to two liters of water for every hour you’re in the heat.
When temperatures are expected to hit 110 degrees, the City of Tucson will open its cooling centers. You can find more information HERE.
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