Arizona heat wave causing serious burns from falling on the ground

Phoenix, Arizona - It’s so hot in Phoenix that people are getting burned just from falling on the ground, a burn center said Monday.

Phoenix is experiencing a prolonged heat wave leaving people vulnerable to severe burns from falling on the ground.
Phoenix is experiencing a prolonged heat wave leaving people vulnerable to severe burns from falling on the ground.  © REUTERS

Some of the burns in the ongoing heat wave have been potentially life-threatening, one doctor told CNN.

Emergency rooms in Maricopa County have been seeing patients with burns from falling on the ground, some of them with life-threatening injuries, the outlet reported.

"Summers are our busy season, so we anticipate that this sort of thing is going to happen. But this is really unusual – the number of patients that we’re seeing and the severity of injuries – the acuity of injuries is much higher," Dr. Kevin Foster, director of burn services at Valleywise Health's Arizona Burn Center, told CNN.

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"The numbers are higher and the seriousness of injuries are higher, and we don’t have a good explanation for it."

Falling on the ground can be fatal in extreme heat

People sit in a crowded room at Justa Center, one of the Valley's many cooling centers, during a heat wave in Phoenix, Arizona.
People sit in a crowded room at Justa Center, one of the Valley's many cooling centers, during a heat wave in Phoenix, Arizona.  © Megan Mendoza/USA Today Network via REUTERS

Foster added that the 45-bed burn center was full, with about 15 of the patients burned from falling on the ground. In addition, about half the burn patients in the facility's ICU were also burned after falls.

"External surface temperatures can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep cutaneous burns can happen with only brief contact," Foster said in a previous statement. "Exposure often occurs in patients with impairments that prevent them from quickly removing themselves from such contact, leading to severe injury."

In a recent report, the burn center said it admitted 85 people with heat-related burn injuries in June, July, and August 2022, and seven of them died. Some of those showed up hyperthermic, with body temperatures topping 108 degrees.

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"Burns covered from 5% to 23% of the individuals' bodies," the center found. "Even though most patients did not have large burns, many were severely ill."

A third of those patients spent time in the ICU and 70% were intubated, the report stated. Patients needed an average of two surgeries, and one required 18. Hospital stays averaged 16 days.

As of Sunday, Phoenix had seen 24 consecutive days of highs topping 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service said. Babies, the elderly, and pets are most vulnerable to such heat, the burn center noted.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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