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Extreme heat kills 2 Tucson hikers
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Extreme heat kills 2 Tucson hikers

Female visitors die from heat stroke while on mountain trails

  • jclor/Flickr

The heat in Southern Arizona has turned deadly in a manner that's more than metaphorical. Two women have died from heat stroke while hiking near Tucson over the past three days, a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said.

Monday afternoon, a 35-year-old German tourist collapsed while hiking in Saguaro National Park West, said Sgt. Dawn Barkman on Monday

Around 2:10 p.m., sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Hugh Norris Trail Head, Barkman said. The woman, who was hiking with another visitor from Germany, collapsed from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Rescuers had to hike about 2 1/2 miles to the scene after the man she was with hiked down the trail to seek help. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, Barkman said.

Tuesday afternoon, the woman was identified by Barkman as Sibylle Reitmeyer of Fuldatal, Germany. The Medical Examiner's Office has not released an official cause of death, she said.

On Saturday, 23-year-old Amalia Barber, of Clinton, Ill., died while hiking with friends on a trail north of the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain hotel in Marana.

Because of difficulties with cell phone service and lack of GPS on the hikers' phones, it took rescuers from the Sheriff's Department and Northwest Fire District about an hour to reach the victim after a 1 p.m. distress call, Barkman said.

The Purdue University student was pronounced dead at the scene "after suffering from what is believed to be extreme heat exhaustion/heat stroke," Barkman said.

The Sheriff's Department offered suggestions on avoiding heat-related illness:

  • Arrange outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. to avoid the worst heat of the day;
  • Always apply sunscreen before going out – wear a hat and light colored, loose fitting clothing made from "breathable" fabrics. Long sleeved shirts and pants will minimize fluid loss through perspiration;
  • Hydrate adequately. Drink at least one quart of fluid for each hour you are out doing physical activity. Water is best, but after extended periods of time outside, replenish with a "sports drink" for electrolyte replacement;
  • Plan activities to include others; do not hike or walk alone;
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies;
  • Tell someone where you are going, when you will return, and what route(s) you will be taking.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for Monday; temperatures were forecast to hit 108 in some areas of Southern Arizona.

Know the symptoms

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a common heat related condition. Possible warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Exhaustion
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Cool, moist, pale or red skin
  • Nausea and vomiting

Treatment

Immediately get the victim into a cooler environment or out of the direct sun. Apply wet cloths and encourage sips of water unless nausea and vomiting occur. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol, they will only add to the dehydration already present. Medical attention should be sought out for these individuals; however, symptoms tend to correct themselves with proper care, intake of fluids, removing themselves from the sun, and resting.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is a serious life-threatening condition. Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Dry, hot, red skin
  • High body temperature
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

Treatment

Heat stroke, which can be fatal, is the next step after heat exhaustion. Victims should be cooled off as quickly as possible by wrapping them in cool cloths. Ice packs should be packed in the armpits or groin area, if possible. Remove the heat stroke victim from direct sunlight immediately and into a cooler environment if at all possible. Medical attention should be sought out immediately and the victim should be taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Heat exhaustion may turn into heat stroke very rapidly; as soon as signs of heat exhaustion are identified, preventative measures should be taken so heat stroke will not occur.

Source: Pima County Sheriff'd Department

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