Nearly half of heat-related deaths happen at home: Data

Story at a glance

  • In the last 20 years, 45 percent of heat-related deaths with a known location happened inside a person’s home, according to National Weather Service data.

  • The outdoors was the next most common place for such deaths to occur, followed by vehicles and mobile homes.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers heat-related deaths to be preventable.

(NewsNation) — A person’s house is the most common place for heat-related deaths to occur, according to National Weather Service data.

An analysis conducted by the Cincinnati Enquirer found that, in the last 20 years, 45% of the 3,142 heat-related deaths with a known location happened inside a person’s home. In 2023, nearly 31% of the 207 reported deaths happened in homes, while 48% were outside.

Heat-related deaths in the outdoors made up 41% of the data, with deaths in vehicles following at 12% and mobile homes at 2.5%. These high temperature tragedies are considered preventable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which predicts an even higher number of heat-related deaths than NWS.

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Tasha Turner-Bicknell, a nurse and associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, told USA Today that lack of air conditioning contributes to the sheer number of at-home deaths.

“Most of us take for granted that we live and work in air-conditioned environments,” she said. “But we have a lot of members of our community that do not have air conditioning.”

Mobility restrictions and accessibility also play a role in the deadly heat statistics.

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“Maybe they use a walker or a cane or a wheelchair, and maybe their caregivers are not available,” Turner-Bicknell said. “They might be unable to get out of their house without assistance.”

What causes heat-related deaths?

The CDC attributes most heat-related deaths to high humidity, which slows sweat evaporation and prevents the human body from cooling down, and personal factors such as age, obesity, dehydration and existing disease.

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The most at-risk populations for heat-related death are people older than 65 and younger than 2. Those experiencing homelessness, chronic diseases or mental illness are also more susceptible.

To stay safe:

  • Drink water

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as frequently as possible

  • Take cooler showers and baths

  • Don’t rely on fans in extreme heat

  • Don’t use ovens or stoves to cook

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