As Idaho reports first heat-related death this year, here’s how to avoid heatstroke

Amid rising temperatures, officials urge people to know heat-related illness symptoms and treatments

By: - July 7, 2023 2:02 pm
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Idaho reported its first heat-related death this year. Health officials say staying cool and hydrated is key to avoid heat-related illness. (Getty Images)

A middle-aged Idahoan died from heatstroke on a difficult hike in southern Idaho recently, state health officials announced Friday. 

The death of a person between 40 and 60 years old, in low shade and temperatures in the 90s, was the first heat-related death reported in Idaho this year by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Public Health.

As temperatures rise, state health officials urge people to be aware of heat-related illness symptoms and treatments. 

Last year, 148 people died of heat-related illness in the U.S., the National Weather Service reports

People in the Northwest also reported illnesses during a 2021 heatwave that saw record temperatures in Boise, Portland and other major cities. Emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses were seven times higher in June 2021 compared to June 2019 across Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, according to a 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report

The signs of heat-related illness

Signs of a heatstroke — the most serious heat-related illness and a medical emergency — include high body temperature, red hot skin, confusion or seizures, nausea, dizziness and fainting, the state health department says. 

People experiencing these symptoms who cannot get medical care should call 911 immediately and move to a cooler place, loosen their clothes and use wet cloths or ice to lower body temperature, including applying them to the head, neck, armpits and groin or giving them a cool bath or soaking their clothes with cool water. People having a heat stroke should not drink, as they may accidentally inhale the fluid rather than swallowing it. 

Heat exhaustion may occur before a heatstroke, with symptoms like tiredness, weakness, irritability, thirst, headache, nausea, muscle cramps and cold, clammy skin. People with heat exhaustion symptoms should move to a cooler place, loosen clothes, use cool clothes or a cold bath and sip cool water frequently. If they vomit or symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek medical help.

How to prevent heat-related illness

Staying cool and hydrated is key. Here’s how:

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Limit outdoor activity to the coolest hours — in the morning and evening.
  • Drink at least one cup of water for every 15-20 minutes of moderate activity lasting less than two hours. Drink before you are thirsty. 
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with high caffeine or sugar.
  • Drink a low-sugar sports drink to replace salt and minerals, which you lose through sweating. If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions, talk to your doctor first.
  • Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. If you’ll be outside for more than two hours, reapply sunscreen.
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals.
  • If your heart is pounding, stop activity and get into the shade.
  • Check weather reports on local news, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s extreme heat tracker.
  • Look out for people around you in the heat.

Read more heat tips from the National Park Service online.

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