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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico Warns of Heat Dangers During Summer Exercise

July 30, 2012

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

Albuquerque, NM — Regular physical activity is healthy, but during the summer months, it can also be deadly. High school students die each year after football practice during excessive heat waves. In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) covered about 1,500 heat-related medical claims, at a cost of just over $1 million. This summer, the insurer is warning all New Mexicans to take proper precautions when exercising or engaging in other strenuous activity outdoors.

According to the National Weather Service heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined.

August typically sees the most heat-related medical claims. "We track 24 heat-related medical conditions including everything from severe sunburns to dehydration to heatstroke," said Dr. Eugene Sun, chief medical officer for BCBSNM. "The New Mexicans 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, BCBSNM 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 not 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 Dr. Sun. "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."

BCBSNM 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 New Mexico
With 300,000 members and serving another 100,000 New Mexicans through the nationwide BlueCard® Program, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico is the largest commercial membership health insurer in New Mexico. Since 1940, BCBSNM has been committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care. BCBSNM is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, 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.

Media Contact:
Becky Kenny (505-816-2012 or 505-999-8806, Becky_Kenny@bcbsnm.com)

For Additional Information:
Website: www.bcbsnm.com
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/bcbsnm 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/bluecrossblueshieldofnewmexico 

View all 2012 Press Releases