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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas Warns of Heat Dangers During Summer Exercise

July 10, 2012

Insurer Hopes to Curb Risks Following a Spike in Last Year’s Summer Temperatures and Claims

Richardson, TX – Regular physical activity is healthy, but during the summer months, it can also be deadly. At least two Texas high school students died after football practice during last year's excessive heat wave. In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) covered about 44,000 heat-related medical claims. That was 6,000 more than the year before at a cost of $22 Million. This summer, the insurer is warning all Texans to take proper precautions when exercising or engaging in other strenuous activity outdoors.

"Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year," says the National Weather Service . "In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined."

BCBSTX says 11 Texas communities incurred more than $1 Million each in heat-related medical costs last year including Amarillo, Austin-San Marcos, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth-Arlington, Houston, Laredo, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, San Antonio and Tyler. The insurer says August typically sees the most heat-related claims. Last year, it covered more than 5,500 in that one month alone.

"We track 24 heat-related medical conditions including everything from severe sun burns to dehydration to heat strokes," said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for BCBSTX. "The Texans most at-risk are those with low blood pressure or diabetes as well as the elderly, youth, obese or anyone with a blood or heart condition."

Heat exhaustion can be characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness and a fast heartbeat. Because it could also be the first sign of a more serious heat-related health concern, BCBSTX offers these tips to people who think they may be a victim:

  • Get out of the heat quickly.
  • Rest in an air-conditioned building.
  • If you can't get inside, find a cool, shady place.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids – even if you are not thirsty.
  • Do NOT drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks.
  • Take a cool shower or bath, or put cool water on your skin.
  • If you do not feel better within 30 minutes, call your doctor. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can progress to heatstroke.

"Many people only pay attention to the daily temperature, but that is not the best indicator of heat danger," added Sanchez. "The heat index more accurately measures risk because it takes into consideration other key factors such as humidity, wind and the number of days with excessive temperatures."

In addition to attention to exercise in the heat, BCBSTX also warns parents about leaving children in parked cars. Even with a window open, the air temperature inside a car can rise by seven degrees in five minutes during the summer months. That means that in 90 degree heat, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach the level of an "excessive heat advisory" on the National Weather Service scale.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas -- the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas – is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 40,000 physicians and 400 hospitals to serve 4.8 million members in all 254 counties. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma and New Mexico), the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSTX.com | Twitter.com/BCBSTX | YouTube.com/BCBSTX | Facebook.com/BlueCrossBlueShieldOfTexas

Media Contacts:
Ross Blackstone (972-766-1735, Ross_Blackstone@BCBSTX.com)

Margaret Jarvis (972-766-7165, Margaret_Jarvis@BCBSTX.com)