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The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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DHMH Press Releases : extra precautions for extended heat



Department of Health & Mental Hygiene News Release

BALTIMORE, MD (June 1, 2011) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is advising Marylanders to take extra care during the third day of extended extreme heat conditions. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for Maryland’s National Capital, Central and Southern regions today from 12:00 noon to 8:00 PM. Area jurisdictions have activated or will activate their heat response plans.

“Each consecutive day of severe heat increases the health risks for our most vulnerable Marylanders, especially seniors, children and anyone with serious underlying health conditions,” said Frances Phillips, DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. “We urge everyone to take precautions for their families, pets and any neighbors who might be at higher risk because of their health or home conditions.”

During the first day (May 30, 2011) of the current severe heat event, emergency rooms across the state experienced a total of 51 visits due to heat related or dehydration complaints, according to Maryland’s biomonitoring system known as ESSENCE. There have been no confirmed heat related deaths in Maryland this season. There were 32 confirmed heat related deaths in the summer of 2010; six heat related deaths in 2009; 17 in 2008 and 21 in 2007.

Marylanders in need of a cooling center or assistance can contact their Local Health Department for information by phone or the internet by going to the DHMH Heat Related Illness web page at:

DHMH is making available brochure on protecting yourself in the heat at

Information in Spanish is also available at

Anyone at any time can suffer from heat related illness, but some people are at greater risk than others.

  • Infants and young children,
  • Youth athletes,
  • People over age 65,
  • People with certain health conditions such as mental illness, diabetes, and hypertension.

IMPORTANT: If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor if you need to take extra care in hot weather.

Heat-related illnesses, like heatstroke, occur when your body can’t keep itself cool. The body normally cools itself by sweating. As sweat evaporates from the skin, it lowers body temperature. But on hot, humid days, moisture in the air keeps sweat from evaporating fast enough. When this happens, body temperature can rise and you may start to feel sick and could lead to:

  • Heat cramps - These are short, severe cramps in the muscles of the leg, arm or abdomen which can happen during or after heavy exercise in extreme heat. Heavy sweating uses up the body’s supply of salts, which causes the cramps. Heat cramps also may be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
  • Heat exhaustion - heat exhaustion occurs when a person spends time in a hot environment without drinking enough fluids. Symptoms include extreme thirst, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, and rapid breathing.
  • Heat stroke - the most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke occurs when body temperature rises too rapidly, to as much as 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Symptoms of heat stroke include red, hot, and dry skin, no sweating, and rapid, weak pulse.
    • Prevention and preparation are keys to avoiding heat related illness (Spanish language resources included below):

      • When the heat index is high, stay indoors as much as possible.
      • Move to the lower floors of your building when inside.
      • Schedule outdoor activities for cooler times of the day, before 10:00 AM and after 6:00 PM
      • Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing,
      • Drink plenty of water before starting any outdoor activity.
      • During outdoor activities, take frequent breaks and drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
      • Don’t leave infants, pets or children inside a parked car.
      • Dress infants and children in cool, loose fitting clothing and shade their faces with hats or an umbrella.
      • Fans will not prevent a heat-related illness. Take a cool shower or bath, or move to a room with air conditioning.
      • Check on adults you know that are at-risk for heat-related illness at least twice a day.
      • Constantly monitor children for signs of heat-related illnesses.

      Household pets may also be vulnerable to health related illness. Precautions and common sense can help:

      • Prior to a heat emergency, make sure you have ample: pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, can opener, food dishes, first aid kit and other supplies.
      • Never leave a pet alone in a car with the windows up.
      • Never leave a pet leashed at home unsupervised.
      • Limit your pet’s exercise to the morning or evening when temperature and heat index is not as high as during the late morning and afternoon. Bring water while exercising pet.
      • Limit the distance and intensity of your pet’s exercise.
      • Ensure that fresh, cool water is available at all times for your pet.
      • Ensure that air conditioning is available for your pet if left indoors.

      For more information visit (Including Spanish language websites):

      Maryland Emergency Management Agency:

      Additional Spanish Language Resources: