Heat-related deaths confirmed by state health officials

MADISON — State health officials say eight people have died since July 1st as a result of our extreme heat. They say another 14 deaths since the beginning of the month may also be heat-related. 

Six of the deaths possibly related to the heat are in Milwaukee County. One more is from Waukesha County.

The second heat wave of the month of July struck early this work week, with a heat advisory issued from noon on Monday, July 16th through 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 17th.

Officials say the city of Milwaukee is perhaps where people are most at risk of health complications due to the heat because of all the concrete and asphalt, which absorbs and radiates the heat.

Dr. Heidi Sykora made rounds at group homes in Milwaukee on Monday, performing welfare checks. Dr. Sykora delivered water and popsicles from the Milwaukee Center for Independence to the city’s most vulnerable.

“It’s just a good reminder that they need to stay hydrated. It’s really hot outside and a lot of times they don`t remember to drink,” Dr. Sykora said.

Several of Dr. Sykora’s patients are on medications that put them at risk of overheating.

“Those tend to be dehydrating. Also, some people may be on water pills that actually cause loss of water,” Dr. Sykora said.

Milwaukee Health Department officials say during the July 3rd to July 6th heat wave, the most serious health problems occurred at the end of the heat advisory.

“These are very, very dangerous events for the community. Heat-related illness tends to occur over a period of time. It’s generally not an immediate effect on a human being or on the body, so we tend to see deaths occur towards the end of an event, or even after an event,” Paul Biedrzycki with the Health Department said.

On July 3rd, Bell Ambulance set a record for calls, responding to over 300. The company planned to increase staff to handle likely increased call volume during this second heat wave. Usually, Bell has 20 ambulances on standby for calls, but Monday there were 30. They also had extra water on board for staff.

Because this latest heat wave isn’t expected to be as prolonged as the last, officials are hoping there will be fewer illnesses and deaths.

A good tip from Dr. Sykora is if you lose over two pounds in a day, you are likely dehydrated.

When temperatures are above 90 degrees, officials recommend the following actions:

• To avoid dehydration, make it a point to drink more fluids during hot weather. Rapid weight loss may be a sign of dehydration.
• Do not plan strenuous activities during the warmest part of the day.
• Individuals at highest risk should spend the hottest part of the day in a cool, preferably air-conditioned place.
• Use fans to increase ventilation unless temperatures exceed 90 degrees, at which point fans become ineffective in reducing heat-related illness.
• Take action to reduce body temperatures if heat-related symptoms appear.
• If you or your neighbors do not have air conditioning, go to a local library, mall, or cooling center. For information on the nearest cooling center, call 2-1-1, contact your health care provider or CLICK HERE.

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