Study: Teens and young adults most likely to visit ER with heat-related illness

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Scientists from Minnesota and Wisconsin were surprised by the findings of a recent study that showed teens and young adults were the most likely age groups to visit the emergency room with heat-related illnesses.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the finding was “somewhat surprising,” as public health alerts tend to focus on the elderly and very young because they are at a higher risk of hospitalization. 

MDH concluded that teens and young adults involved in athletics or outdoor work need added prevention education as a result.  

“During hot summer months, we are still concerned about the very young and very old. But what we learned from this project is that we can do better to reach other populations who may not be aware of their risk,” said Tess Konen, an epidemiologist and project lead from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Epidemiologists from the two states worked together on the project that looked at heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke hospitalizations between 2006 and 2015.

There were 7,537 heat-related illness ER cases in Minnesota and 8,445 in in Wisconsin during the timeframe. The study found that teens and adults 15-34 years old were most likely to go to the ER.

A release from MDH says the two states are a good fit for the study because they share similar climates, populations and patterns of heat-related illness.

“Given our similarities, we knew our project would have the biggest impact if we combined our data and worked together to assess heat-related illness trends and patterns,” said Paul Creswell, an epidemiologist and project lead from Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends taking the following steps to avoid heat-related injuries:

  • Stay in air conditioning: When possible, stay in airconditioned spaces on hot days.  If you don’t have air conditioning, head to libraries, malls, and other public spaces to keep cool.
  • Check on loved ones: Extreme heat can affect anyone of any age. Be sure to check on older friends and neighbors who live alone and don’t have air conditioning.
  • Avoid the hottest part of the day: If you have to be outside, stick to the cooler morning and evening hours. Wear light, loose clothing and take frequent, air conditioned breaks.
  • Beware of hot cars: Never leave a person or a pet in a parked car even for a short time.  On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water on hot days.  Avoid alcohol and hot, heavy meals.
  • Stay informed: Watch your local weather forecasts so you can plan outdoor activities safely. Pay attention to any extreme heat alerts.
  • If you start feeling overheated, weak, dizzy, nauseated, or have muscle cramps, you could be experiencing heat illness. Move to air conditioning, drink water, get under a fan, and put on cool washcloths.  If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve, go to the emergency room