Editorial: Avoid heat-related illnesses this summer

Summer has officially arrived today, June 21, but dangerously high temperatures made their presence known before the season officially began and, sadly, the Maryland Department of Health and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported Wednesday the state’s first heat-related death of the year had occurred.

The death was an adult male, age 18-44, in Prince George’s County. In 2017, there were five heat-related deaths in Maryland during the monitoring period, which runs from May to September. In 2016, there were 17 such deaths across Maryland.


While the temperatures have cooled off from the oppressive heat and humidity we experienced earlier this week, they will undoubtedly rise again in the months ahead.

Summertime heat can be a serious health hazard, especially for our youngest and oldest residents. Illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke shouldn’t be taken lightly.

One thing to keep in mind is even if the temperature itself isn’t particular high, the relative humidity can make it feel like it’s much hotter. For example, an 85-degree day with 90 percent humidity can make it feel like it’s more than 101 degrees outside. High humidity reduces your body’s ability to get rid of excess heat through sweating.

Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing and be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated if you have to be outside. If you work outdoors or you have kids playing outside in the sunshine during summer break, don’t forget to take breaks in the shade or indoors when you can. Wearing sunscreen won’t help prevent heat-related illness, but it will keep you from getting sunburned and developing a high risk of skin cancers down the road, making it a wise move when it’s sweltering outside, too.

Drink water instead of sugary beverages like soda, juice or beer. The sugars contribute to dehydration and may lead to a bout of heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include sweating profusely and suffering from dizziness, headaches, nausea, muscle cramps or a rapid heartbeat after being outside in the heat. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, get to a cooler location — preferably someplace indoors with air conditioning — drink water and apply cool, wet clothes to your body. If you continue to feel nauseous or vomit, you may be suffering from heat stroke and should call 911 to see a doctor right away.

Children, seniors, people with heart and lung conditions, and those suffering from asthma are the most at-risk of serious consequences related to the heat. If you know someone who fits those categories, especially someone who may live by themselves or be home alone, check in regularly during particularly hot stretches.

On particularly hot days, Carroll County will announce cooling centers at air-conditioned facilities such as public libraries or senior centers throughout the county. But even when these places aren’t officially activated as cooling centers, they are a good place to drop by if you need to cool off and don’t have air conditioning or your A/C unit is broken.

Finally, don’t forget about children or pets in cars. While it may be convenient to leave kids in the car while you go into a store to run a quick errand, vehicles can heat up incredibly quickly in the sun. About 37 children die locked inside hot cars in the U.S. annually, according to

Summer has only just begun. The worst heat is still to come. Drink lots of water and stay cool.