Extreme heat is leading cause of weather-related deaths. How to protect yourself

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SALT LAKE CITY – Extreme heat is the No. 1 cause of weather-related deaths, which is why it's crucial to stay diligent in high temperatures to protect yourself and your loved ones.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 120,000 people visited emergency rooms in 2023 for heat-related illnesses, and more than 2,300 people died from heat exposure.

"There are dangers associated with elevated temperatures and high heat," said Jon Jones, the nurse manager for the Emergency Department at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. He suggested limiting your sun exposure.

"People who have been out during particularly hotter parts of the day when they're involved in strenuous activity or physical activity – that can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke," he said.

What is heat exhaustion and heatstroke?

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and can't cool down. Symptoms include dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea or vomiting, and muscle cramps. If you experience any of these, move to a cooler place, loosen your clothing and sip water.

Heatstroke is a more serious, life-threatening illness that happens when your body can no longer control its temperature. Symptoms include headache, confusion, and no sweating.

"When you start to see the physical symptoms associated with an altered mental status, nausea that leads to vomiting, anything that's making it difficult for you to keep down water or electrolytes or food, those are dangerous signs that you should definitely seek emergency medical services," Jones said.

While these conditions are serious, they can be prevented through proper sun safety techniques, Jones said, like wearing sunscreen, covering up with clothing and hats, and staying hydrated. They can happen more quickly in extreme heat.

Jones said playground equipment can be extremely dangerous on hot days. Parents should use caution when allowing their children to play outside.

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Emma Benson
Emma Benson is a storyteller and broadcast media professional, passionate about sharing truthful, meaningful stories that will impact communities. She graduated with a journalism degree from BYU, and has worked as a morning news anchor with KIFI News Group in Idaho Falls. She joined the KSL-TV team in October 2023.


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