31-year-old Columbia man the state’s first heat death

A man died of heat-related conditions early Wednesday morning, which marks the state’s first confirmed hyperthermia death in 2016.

Jamal Dirk Graham, 31, of Atlas Road in Columbia, was taken to the emergency room at Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Tuesday. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Graham was not exerting himself before he was taken to the hospital – he was in his house without air conditioning.

Watts cautioned the public to be watchful for heat exhaustion and heatstroke during intense summer weather. Those who are unable to cool their homes properly should contact their local churches for possible assistance, he said.

State health officials said Graham’s is the first heat-related death in South Carolina this year, after 11 last year. They are encouraging everyone to be extra cautious.

The Columbia Police Department also is offering free fans to those who are 55 years old or older or who have a doctor’s note describing a respiratory or major illness. To contract the Fan the Heat program, call (803) 545-3555 or (803) 545-3500.

Thursday marked the fifth consecutive day to reach or exceed 100 degrees in Columbia, according to the National Weather Service. It started Sunday, which was the hottest day of the year so far, at 104 degrees, NWS meteorologist Mike Proud said. Monday hit 101, Tuesday hit 103 and Wednesday hit 100.

The mercury in Columbia hit 100 degrees at 2:27 p.m. Thursday.

Those hot temperatures are expected to continue this weekend. Temps in Columbia are expected to hit 101 degrees on Friday, 102 on Saturday and 99 on Sunday, according to the NWS website.

What you need to know

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms often occurring in the legs or abdomen.

Signs of heat exhaustion include: cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion. Most people can recover by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of liquids.

Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately. Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature (over 103 degrees F), hot dry skin to the touch, fainting or total loss of consciousness, rapid and/or weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, vomiting and seizures.

What to do – every day

Drink plenty of water. If you are doing an outdoors activity, drink 2- 4 glasses of at least 16 ounces of cool fluids every hour. Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as these actually cause you to lose body fluid.

Avoid strenuous activity.

Take frequent cool showers or baths.

Wear lightweight, light colored clothes.

Limit sun exposure.

Never, ever, leave children or pets in parked cars, even for a minute.

SOURCES: SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia Police Department