A study of heat-related deaths associated with the 1993 heat wave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was conducted. Most of these deaths were in the susceptible elderly with preexisting natural diseases who lived alone without air conditioning in upstairs bedrooms with windows shut, thus creating an even hotter environment. These excessive deaths under such conditions did not meet the standard clinical criteria for hyperthermia because of varying postmortem intervals. Therefore, the authors stress the utility of a postmortem definition of heat-related death to better define the magnitude of health risk posed by hot weather and warn public health and other agencies to take preventative measures.
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