First heat-related death of 2009 reported in Shelby Co. - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

First heat-related death of 2009 reported in Shelby Co.

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A 76-year-old woman suffered Shelby County's first heat-related death of 2009, the medical examiner said.

A family member discovered the woman dead inside her Frayser home Saturday, where the temperature was reported to be 88 degrees.

The home did not have a working air conditioner.

Temperatures are again expected to hit the mid-nineties Thursday, and officials are warning residents to take precautions.

Doctors say the body sends off several warning signs for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including a lack of perspiration, less frequent urination, and sometimes disorientation. 

Dr. Tripp Darbie at Methodist Hospital in Germantown says spending just a few of hours a day in cooler temperatures can save a life. 

"What a lot of people don't realize is that by the time you feel thirsty, you're behind the curve already," he said.

Doctors say older adults are especially susceptible to heat-related illness and death. 

"Number one, a lot of them can't get out of the heat. They don't have transportation or a place to go," said Darbie. "Number two, they're not mobile in their home. They can't get up to get water, they can't turn on fans. Number three, a lot of them are on medicines like diuretics that prevent them from sweating."

28 community centers in Memphis are designated public cooling centers for residents who need of a break from the heat. But the elderly are less likely to use them.

"They feel like, if someone can come to them and help them, they want to keep their houses...stay in their homes and tough it out like everybody else," said Darbie.

Sharon Latham of Memphis says she frequently checks in on her senior neighbors and wishes others would do the same.

"I think we should get back to the 50s and 40s and 30s, when people did get to know their neighbors and help them," she said.

 

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