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Heat-related illnesses and deaths are on the rise, health experts say

NC Department of Health and Human Services says most emergency department visits due to heat-related illness were for men between the ages of 25 and 44.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Health experts say recent hot summer temperatures have led to an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, in just the first week of July more than 300 emergency department visits were due to heat-related illnesses including heat exhaustion. Most of these visits were for men between the ages of 25 and 44. Nurse Practitioner Patricia Williams with Novant Health said men in this age group have been known for pushing themselves too hard.

“If we really look at our numbers, the most recent data that I've seen probably 40% of those are construction workers,” Williams said. “So, it's people who are highly exposed to high temperatures, working out in that heat.”

Williams says recognizing the early signs and symptoms is key to preventing heat-related illness:

  • Rapid heart rate,
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • An increase in sweating

“Pacing yourself, understanding the limitations of being outside for a long period of time, even those people who are working out there to understand those rest breaks are very important,” Williams said. “Make sure you're hydrating yourself because the hydration makes sure that dehydration doesn't happen."

Williams recommends avoiding caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol. The CDC said drinking alcohol within 24 hours of working outside can increase your risk for heat illness. 

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