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Another Heat-related Death Spurs Warnings About Missouri Elders

PHOTO: Thermometer
PHOTO: Thermometer
July 25, 2012

ST. LOUIS - The number of heat-related deaths in Missouri has reached 26.

The St. Charles County medical examiner has listed a 64-year-old man as the latest confirmed heat victim. The man died in his mobile home after having his air conditioner removed because he thought it was too expensive. He reportedly had refused a relative's offer to move to a cooler place.

Craig Eichelman, AARP Missouri state director, says sometimes older people remember that when they were children they didn't have air conditioning, and they think they can tough it out now.

"But according to the Centers for Disease Control, extreme heat kills more Americans each year than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods combined."

That's why he's urging Missourians to check on elders and help them find ways to stay cool, especially if they live alone. He says elders need to be reminded that the ill effects of heat are cumulative.

"We're not invincible. We need to be very aware of how heat can affect us, particularly if you're on certain medications that can interfere with the body's ability to handle heat."

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, slurred speech, nausea and racing heart rate. Eichelman reminds Missourians that heat stroke is something that can be prevented.

"It's just good to go check on a neighbor. Make sure they're OK, that they're staying hydrated, that they're staying as cool as possible, especially if they live alone."

If you think someone is suffering from heat stroke, doctors say to call 911 immediately. In the meantime, if the person is conscious, get him or her to drink water. Sponge the person's clothes and body with cool water and apply ice packs to their armpits and head.

More information is online at aarp.org and at mayoclinic.com.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO