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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: June 20, 2014



DOVER (June 19, 2014) - A 56-year old Sussex County man is Delaware's first heat-related death of the year. The Medical Examiner's Office will not perform an autopsy, but preliminary findings indicate heat exposure contributed to the man's death on Wednesday, the Medical Examiner's Office said. The man also had an underlying medical condition.

Delaware's Division of Public Health said the man's death is a reminder of the danger that excessive temperatures and humidity can have on everyone, but especially those who are medically vulnerable. It's important for Delawareans to have an emergency plan for a heat wave, just as they do for a hurricane or a snowstorm.

"There are many scenarios you need to anticipate," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. "Do you have a plan if you lose power? Where can you go to cool down and be safe if you have no air-conditioning or lose power? Do you know how to safely cool yourself or a loved one down if they are suffering from excess heat? Do you know when to call 911?"

Tips to prevent heat illness:

Do not leave a child alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see a child left unattended in a vehicle. Check in on seniors and individuals with disabilities to make sure they are OK. Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. (Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.) Visit www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/water.html for more information. Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible to avoid the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself, and has been linked to skin cancer. Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children. Heed the following heat danger warning signs and take suggested actions: Heat cramps occur in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen occurring during or after physical activity in high heat. Sweating results in loss of fluids and salts that cause muscle cramps. Address heat cramps by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water. Heat exhaustion is more severe, occurring when a person is overheated along with reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids.

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person is overheated along with reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids. Symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability and fainting. Take these simple steps to reduce heat exhaustion:

Move the person indoors or into shade. Loosen or remove the person's clothing. Encourage the heat exhaustion victim to eat and drink. Get the person to a cool shower or bath. Call your doctor for further advice.

Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself, and can be a life-threatening event. Prompt medical treatment is required. Symptoms include: flushed, hot and dry skin with no sweating; high body temperature (above 103 F, taken orally); severe, throbbing headache; weakness, dizziness, or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; decreased responsiveness; and loss of consciousness. If heat stroke occurs, take these steps:

Call 9-1-1 immediately. This is a medical emergency. Get the heat stroke victim indoors or into shade. Get the person into a cool shower or bath, or wipe them down with continually soaked cool washcloths while awaiting emergency responders.

For more info, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html. A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit delawarerelay.com.

DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day; have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming); get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day; and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.