Jul 24, 2023 - Climate

Houston region records third heat death

Illustration of a fire graphic on a caution street sign.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The intense heat that continues to engulf Houston has the potential to cause anyone who spends too much time outside to be hospitalized — and it can quickly turn deadly for vulnerable residents.

Driving the news: The Houston region recorded its third death related to heat exposure earlier this month.

  • William Toomey, 89, was found unresponsive on a sidewalk outside his Webster apartment July 14 and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, per Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokesperson Roxanne Phatak. Hyperthermia contributed to his death, records show.
  • Victor Ramos, 67, lived in a southwest Houston home without air conditioning and was taken to the hospital June 24, where he died, Phatak said. Hyperthermia was his primary cause of death, per records.
  • Felipe Pascaul, 46, died while pouring concrete in Fort Bend County on June 16. The Galveston County Medical Examiner ruled his death a result of hyperthermia, according to KHOU.

The big picture: Older adults, children, unhoused people and outdoor workers are especially susceptible to developing heat-related illnesses, Ralph Riviello, chief of emergency medicine at UT Health San Antonio, tells Axios.

Zoom in: Some medications often taken by older adults, including those for high blood pressure and heart disease, make it harder for the body to sweat and regulate its temperature, Riviello says.

By the numbers: The Houston Fire Department has seen an increase in heat-related illness calls, with 442 in June and 276 from July 1-17. In 2022, there were 264 calls in June and 342 calls in July.

Be smart: Overnight temperatures are warmer than they used to be. That means people who are unsheltered at night don't have a chance to cool down in the evening.

Context: Human-caused climate change is worsening heat waves by making them more intense, longer-lasting and more likely to occur, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

The bottom line: "If you don't have to be outside, don't be outside," Riviello says.

How to cool down


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