The number of heat-related deaths is underestimated and underreported in the US and elsewhere, claims an important new study published in Biomedical Market Newsletter(R).
A new analysis by government experts shows that the number of heat-related deaths is actually 54% higher than previously reported.
"In this analysis, the inclusion of hyperthermia as a contributing cause of death increased by 54% the total number of heat-related deaths during 1999-2003 that would have been counted through inclusion of a heat-related underlying cause alone. Because heat-related illnesses can exacerbate existing medical conditions, and death from heat exposure can be preceded by various symptoms, heat-related deaths can be difficult to identify when illness onset or death is not witnessed by a clinician."
Unfortunately, the "criteria used to determine heat-related causes of death vary among states. This can lead to underreporting heat-related deaths or to reporting heat as a factor contributing to death rather than the underlying cause," the experts concluded.
Prompt treatment of heat-related illnesses with aggressive fluid replacement and cooling of core body temperature is critical to reducing morbidity and mortality, officials stress.