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Phoenix-area heat deaths jump to 25 over past few weeks

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Heat-related deaths in Maricopa County have risen to more than two dozen in four months, most of them coming in just the past few weeks.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health said 25 heat-associated deaths had been confirmed as of the middle of August. From April to mid-July, there had been only three.

The high for Wednesday hit 114 degrees, surpassing 110 degrees for the second day in a row. Both were records for the dates.

The county cited in a weekly report that 73% of the fatalities had happened outdoors.

Last year, the county recorded 182 heat-associated deaths.

Dr. Joseph Winchell of Banner Health told KTAR News 92.3 FM his emergency room has the most ambulance visits per day in the state, averaging 82.

A team of nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners assist in caring for patients. They treat many suffering from heat illnesses.

Winchell said the majority of heat illnesses treated in the Mesa ER were heat exhaustion.

“It’s not life-threatening, not life-changing,” he said.

But heat stroke is more serious.

A patient’s temperature is generally 106 degrees at that point and that is usually lethal, Winchell said.

Drinking too much water also is harmful to the body.

An excessive amount of plain water introduced to the body in a hurry dilutes the body’s natural sodium.

That can cause neurological issues and in extreme instances, seizures, Winchell said.

Sipping water throughout the day is a safer way to hydrate, he said.

Newcomers and visitors aren’t the only ones who fall victim to the Valley’s high heat.

“We do have Arizona natives … who get in trouble. They think their body has acclimated to the heat,” Winchell said.

And that is true, up to a point.

“After we resuscitate them, that’s the first thing they says to us is, ‘I didn’t think this would happen to me.””

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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