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Heat Deaths

If you have been in Washington State for any amount of time, it is clear things are heating up. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average temperatures in most areas of the state have risen one to two degrees Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. It does not sound like much, but the state has seen glaciers retreating, early snowpack melt and a reduction in the flow of meltwater. This means a dwindling water supply and many more issues for a growing population.

In 2021 the Pacific Northwest was gripped by a massive “heat dome,” a weather event scientists would previously have considered unthinkable. According to an analysis by World Weather Attribution, with the two-degree increase in temperatures, Washington State could experience such a heat dome “every five to 10 years.”

Children, seniors, people who work outside, and those with pre-existing health conditions and chronic diseases are especially susceptible to heat-related injuries and death. If you or a loved one has experienced a heat-related injury or death, an experienced attorney can help you evaluate your legal options.

Is extreme heat or extreme cold more dangerous?

Both are dangerous because when you are too hot or too cold your body is forced to work harder to stay at 98.6oF which puts significant stress on your heart and lungs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more temperature-related deaths are attributable to exposure to the cold than the heat. As the climate warms, the risk for cold-related death will decrease slightly, but heat-related illnesses and death will increase dramatically.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

The CDC notes heat exhaustion symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output

Heat stroke is much more serious. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature (above 103oF)

If you or a loved one is experiencing a heat-related emergency, contact 911 immediately.

How does a heat stroke differ from heat exhaustion?

Heat stroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion. Generally, heat exhaustion can be managed by moving into a cooler environment, resting and drinking fluids. With heat stroke, immediate medical attention is necessary.

What causes heat stroke?

Heat stroke happens when the body can no longer cool itself by sweating. The person’s body temperature rises rapidly over a short period of time (in as little as 10 to 15 minutes). If they do not receive immediate medical treatment, they can die or become permanently disabled.

What causes heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion happens when the body loses too much water and salt. Those especially susceptible to heat exhaustion include seniors, people with high blood pressure and those who work in the heat. If untreated, it can escalate to heat stroke.

Can you die just from being in hot weather?

People can generally adapt to being in a warmer environment, given time to acclimate. However, when extreme heat events occur, your body does not have time to adjust, and, depending on your age and overall health, you may start to experience symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If untreated, death or permanent disability can occur.

Why is extreme heat so deadly?

Extreme heat is deadly because anyone can succumb to it, even healthy, active adults. Additionally, heat-related illnesses can come on extremely quickly, in just a matter of minutes, and can lead to permanent injury and death.

What are some tips for handling extreme heat?

University of Washington Medicine has the following tips for handling extreme heat:

  • Drink water and other fluids – do not wait until you are thirsty
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day
  • Eat foods with lots of water in them (e.g., watermelon, cucumbers, celery)
  • Take frequent breaks – stop if you feel sick
  • Check in on others who might be susceptible to heat-related illnesses
  • Do not leave kids or pets in parked cars

Learn more about staying safe in extreme heat.

How can PCVA help if you have suffered a heat-related injury?

PCVA’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation and damages from those responsible for a heat-related injury or death. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our online form or call us at (253) 777-0799 or (206) 462-4334.

How much does PCVA charge?

Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us on an hourly basis, and we advance the costs of litigation. If we help you resolve your case, we receive a percentage of the amount you receive, and you reimburse us for the costs we advanced on your behalf.