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Temperature-Related Deaths

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Temperature-Related Deaths

Texas, 2003-2008

Temperature extremes have far-reaching consequences nationwide. Public health impacts, including mortality, have been well documented in scientific literature 1-6. 

According to the Texas Almanac, the climate in Texas is variable. Summer temperatures are in the mid to upper 90s (Fahrenheit) with readings above 100 ° occurring quite frequently. Winter temperatures in the Texas Panhandle often dip well below freezing, occasionally even below 0 ° F. Snow (or ice) is possible anywhere in the state, although rare in south Texas. Given that Texas experiences extremes in temperature, heat and cold-related deaths occur, although they are not a significant cause of mortality in the state.

Methods

In this article, we used underlying cause of death data from Texas death certificates to analyze mortality related to extremes in temperature from 2003-2008. Underlying cause of death is defined as the disease or injury that initiated the events resulting in death 7. For this article, the underlying cause of death codes were based on the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). For heat-related deaths, X30 (i.e., exposure to excessive natural heat) was analyzed; for cold-related deaths, X31 (i.e., exposure to excessive natural cold) was analyzed.

The findings in this report are subject to some limitations. First, behavior or other characteristics of persons who have died might be inaccurate since family members provided it 5. Second, contributing causes of death such as hyperthermia (ICD-10 code T67) and hypothermia (ICD-10 code T68) were not examined. Contributing causes of death are defined as other significant conditions that contributed to the death, but did not result in the underlying cause of death 7.

Results

From 2003-2008, there were 263 deaths reported among Texas residents with exposure to excessive natural heat as the underlying cause of death. During this same time period, there were 115 deaths reported among Texas residents with exposure to excessive natural cold as the underlying cause of death. Since mortality rates based on small numbers can be misleading, rates are not presented in this report.

The figure below shows the number of temperature-related deaths by month among Texas residents for the 2003-2008 time period:

Temperature-related deaths by month

( Graph data)            

 The following links provide temperature-related mortality statistics by location and demographic factors:

Deaths by county where the person lived

Deaths by county where the person died

Deaths by age, sex, and race/ethnicity

Pivot Table – a table that summarizes the information in this report. With Pivot tables, you can quickly rearrange the position of pivot table fields to give you a different view of the table.

Heat and cold weather precautions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Preparedness and Response web site at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/ has tips to prevent temperature-related morbidity. ( Also the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has helpful tips to prepare for extreme temperatures at http://www.fema.gov/hazard/index.shtm ) For example, it states that while electric fans may provide comfort, fans may not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature is in the high 90s. Staying in an air-conditioned area is the most effective way to combat heat.

Taking preventive action is the best defense against dealing with extreme cold weather. By preparing homes and cars in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, one can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

References:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat-related deaths --- United States, 1999-2003. MMWR 2006: 55(29);796-798.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypothermia-related deaths --- United States, 1999--2002 and 2005. MMWR 2006: 55(10);282-284.

3. Taylor A and McGwin G. Temperature-Related Deaths in Alabama. South Med J 2000; 93(8): 787-792.

4. Greenberg JH, Bromberg J, Reed CM, Gustafson TL and Beauchamp RA. The epidemiology of heat-related deaths, Texas--1950, 1970-79, and 1980. Am J Pub Hlth 1983; 73(7): 805-807.

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat-Related Deaths --- Four States, July--August 2001, and United States, 1979—1999. MMWR 2002: 51(26); 567-570.

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat-Related Deaths -- Dallas, Wichita, and Cooke Counties, Texas, and United States, 1996. MMWR 1997: 46(23); 528-531.

7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Instructions for completing the cause-of-death section of the death certificate. August 2004.

 

Last updated December 09, 2011