Maryland’s Department of Health reported that the death of a 52-year-old male this week marks the first heat-related fatality of 2023 in the state.
The health department urged Marylanders to take precautions during the rising summer temperatures and issued reminders about how to stay safe from heat-related illnesses.
“As we experience more hot days like today, this tragedy reminds us of how important it is to take every precaution to avoid overheating,” Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, said in a written statement.
He said that he is “saddened” to report the state’s first heat-related death of the season and urges Marylanders to “check on family and neighbors who are at risk for heat-related illness.”
Federal and state health officials have warned of the dangers of prolonged heat exposure, especially as July brings sweltering temperatures. July 4 was reported to be the hottest day on record since at least 1979, with some scientists believing it to be the hottest day in some 125,000 years, according to a recent report from the Washington Post.
In light of this year’s first heat-related death, Maryland health officials are encouraging Marylanders to “take it easy outside” and arrange physical activities for mornings and evenings when temperatures are lower.
The department reminds Marylanders to drink plenty of fluids to help cope with hot weather and urges folks to avoid alcohol, caffeine and overly sweetened beverages. They also encouraged wearing sunscreen and staying in the shade when possible.
Children and pets should not be left in a car “for any time during hot weather, even with the windows cracked,” the health department said.
The Department of Health notes that while anyone can experience heat-related illnesses, children under 5 years old, those over age 65 and people with chronic illnesses are at the highest risks.
Certain medications may also increase heat sensitivity, including antidepressants, antihistamines, and high blood pressure drugs, according an article from the Mayo Clinic.
Residents are encouraged to check on elderly neighbors to ensure they have cool places to stay. Those in need of a cool location can contact their local health departments or call 211 to find the nearest cooling center.
The record-keeping period for heat-related deaths in Maryland starts annually in May and ends in September. Maryland recorded five heat-related deaths in 2022 during that period, according to the Department of Health.
Previous years had more heat-related fatalities: 16 heat-related deaths in 2021, 21 deaths in 2020, 21 deaths in 2019 and 28 deaths in 2018, according to the report.
In June, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-7th) announced the “Jordan McNair Student Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act,” a federal bill named after a young University of Maryland football player who died in 2018 from heat stroke symptoms after collapsing on the field during practice days earlier. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is an original cosponsor of the Senate bill.
The bill would require colleges and universities to create heat-illness emergency plans, including plans for operating automatic external defibrillators and cold-water immersion equipment. The bill also would require that informational graphics about signs of heat-related illnesses be posted in locker rooms, athletic training facilities, weight rooms and outdoor sports complexes.