New record of heat-related deaths in Arizona
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported a record of 522 heat-related deaths in 2021 and 2020, up 84% from 2019. Nearly two-thirds of those occurred in Maricopa County, according to state statistics. Other studies have shown those most at risk of suffering a heat-related death are between the ages of 50 and 65 followed by those between 35 and 49 years old.
Dr. Erik Mattison is an emergency medicine physician with Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center, and he knows the dangers of Arizona’s extreme heat.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of a heat-related illness. This includes: mild heat cramps, dark urine, nausea and lightheadedness.
“The quickest way is evaporative cooling, getting a fan on you or using misting bottles, running a bath or jumping into a pool, any sort of access to cool off,” Dr. Mattison said.
It is recommended to do outdoor activities in the early morning before the temperatures rise. Dr. Mattison said if you know you are going to be outdoors during a sensitive time, try to pre-hydrate. Getting enough fluids into your body is needed for rigorous activity.
“If you look at the studies, Maricopa County alone had 425 heat-related deaths last year. That’s up 25% from the year before,” Dr. Mattison said.
This issue is connected to a large homeless population and people who cannot protect themselves. Dr. Mattison said more than two-thirds of the people are either the age of 50 or older or have substance abuse issues.
Maricopa County continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in the country. “As you continue to have construction in downtown Phoenix, you’re always going to have less vegetation, and it will be several degrees warmer than other places in the valley,” Dr. Mattison said.