It is so hot in Maricopa County, Arizona, that people are being brought into the emergency room with significant, sometimes life-threatening burns. For the past three or four weeks of this record heatwave, people have been burned just by falling on the ground.
“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,” said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of burn services at the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health. “The numbers are higher and the seriousness of injuries are higher, and we don’t have a good explanation for it.”
Every single one of the 45 beds in the burn center is full, he said, and one-third of patients are people who fell and burned themselves on the ground. There are also burn patients in the ICU, and about half of those patients are people burned after falls.
“It has definitely taken its toll,” Foster said.
The area has been hotter than usual, even for Arizona, and that, experts said, means that the ground can be dangerous for anyone whose bare skin comes into contact with it.
Asphalt is dark and dense. While concrete is lighter and reflects some sunlight, when the sun shines on asphalt, its dark color causes it to absorb light and it heats up.