RALEIGH — Triple-digit temperatures sent more than 350 North Carolinians to the emergency room last week.
Emergency responders received 365 calls due to heat from June 29 to July 7, nearly half of them in the first three days of the period, according to a report from the state’s Division of Public Health. The report uses data from first responders and includes heat stroke, heat exhaustion and hyperthermia.
The report tallied 559 heat-related emergency room calls since May 1.
“You’re seeing it everywhere in the state, in urban and rural areas,” said Mark Van Sciver, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “The first big spike tends to be around Memorial Day. It takes time to get used to it. Your body is not ready for it yet.”
It was a record-breaking week for heat in North Carolina. In the Triangle, temperatures topped 100 every day but one between June 29 and July 8, including seven new record highs and the first six-day span of temperatures above 100 ever recorded at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The majority of heat-related calls came from 25- to 64-year-old men, according to the report. Many patients were either working or engaging in recreational activities outdoors, but the report does not offer a detailed breakdown of the circumstances surrounding the emergencies.
State health officials have confirmed one death related to heat, on June 7, when a 2-year-old child died after being left unattended in a hot car in Burke County.
Heat may have also led to the death of a 73-year-old woman in the McDowell County community of Nebo last week, a local medical examiner said. The woman was reportedly on her deck looking at her garden when she collapsed.
The number of heat-related deaths is likely to rise as state health officials conduct autopsies in the coming months, Van Sciver said.
Many people become more aware of the dangers during heat waves and stay inside with air conditioning, Van Sciver noted. But many, including young children and older people, are still vulnerable.
The N.C. Department of Labor received 20 heat-related complaints last week from workers in the state, said spokesman Neal O’Briant. The complaints came from eight fast-food restaurants, seven factories, two retail stores, an office, a greenhouse and a construction site. No complaints came from agricultural workers.
Farmers in the state are adjusting their schedule to avoid the highest temperatures during the middle of the day, said Brian Long, public affairs director at the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
Heat can also inflict major damage to the state’s corn crop, Long noted. Many farms have switched to pond irrigation to save plants from the dry conditions.
Smith’s Nursery, a fruit farm in Benson, let regular workers out early, kept water coolers in the fields, and limited its public hours to the morning, said Chris Smith, an employee. Many local farmers markets also closed during the heat wave.