What is the incidence of heat stroke in the US?

Updated: Aug 02, 2019
  • Author: Robert S Helman, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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In the United States, heat waves claim more lives each year than all other weather-related exposures combined (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes). [3] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8,015 deaths were attributed to excessive heat exposure from 1979-2003, or an average of approximately 334 deaths per year. [4]

Heat stroke and deaths from excessive heat exposure are more common during summers with prolonged heat waves. For example, during the heat wave of 1980 (a record year for heat in the United States), 1700 deaths were attributed to heat, compared to only 148 deaths attributed to heat the previous year. Persons older than 65 years accounted for at least 44% of cases. The numbers published by the National Center for Health Statistics are believed to grossly underestimate the true incidence of heat-related deaths because death rates from other causes (eg, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease) also increase during the summer, and especially during heat waves.

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