SANTA FE, NM – With temperatures rising to the high 90s in most parts of the state, triple digits in many areas, and with temperatures predicted to remain high over the weekend, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) cautions New Mexicans and visitors to be aware of weather conditions to avoid heat-related illnesses.
“It is very important to take precautions to avoid going to the hospital for heat-related illness,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “This weekend, limit your time outdoors, drink a lot of water, and never leave anyone, especially babies or pets, in parked cars or inside hot buildings without cooling systems.”
Heat stress is a heat-related illness which can have many signs and symptoms like dizziness, nausea, cramping, and weakness. NMDOH conducts surveillance for heat-related illness (HRI) and has received reports of 20 emergency department visits and two hospitalizations in the past week.
The most severe forms of HRI includes heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke; if untreated, this can result in death or permanent neurological impairment. Through recent data analysis, the New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau, Epidemiology and Response Division, has found that even though temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit may not seem high, this is the temperature at which people start to go to the hospital for heat-related problems.
All New Mexicans should take precautions, especially the very young, people over age 65, and those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease or who are on certain medications. Additionally, visitors who may not be used to temperatures above 86 degrees and intense sunshine need to stay cool and be extra cautious. Other recommendations include: going to cooling stations when available in your area; drinking more water than usual; and avoiding alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar. Plan your outdoor activities and errands for the coolest part of the day and pace yourself.
The city of Las Cruces has opened five cooling stations to the public. Stations are open every day until 8 p.m. and will remain open until temperatures drop.
An analysis of the historical temperature records shows that the average New Mexico summer temperature has risen 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. The summer months include June, July, August, and September.
NMDOH offers practical tips and data on its Heat Stress web page. For more information, visit here.