Coroner eyes hot tub as potential cause of man's death

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Summertime is all about rest and relaxation, but your next dip in a hot tub could put your health in jeopardy.

The Horry County Coroner's Office is trying to figure out if heat exposure inside of a hot tub contributed to the death of Charles Heath, 67, of New Jersey this week.

A report from the Myrtle Beach Police Department says family members found Heath dead inside a hotel room at the Breakers resort early Sunday evening. Prior to the discovery, family members told officers Heath wasn't feeling well after spending nearly two hours in a hot tub.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge says coupled with the prolonged heat exposure, Heath had a bad heart valve. He says the two likely contributed to his death.

It's a mistake doctors say too many people make too often.

"It's just a very, very bad combination," Dr. Ron Reynolds, of Beach Urgent Care, said.

Reynolds says anyone - even those with a clean bill of health - should limit time in a hot tub to 15 minutes at the most. DHEC regulations allow public hot tubs to reach temperatures of 104 degrees.

Spending more than that recommended time in the hot water could overheat you, cause dehydration and send your blood pressure sky high. Reynolds says there's a laundry list of people who should steer clear of them all together, including the elderly and small children.

"People that have certain types of diseases - especially people with cardiovascular disease, are susceptible to stroke. [Also] people that have a history of high blood pressure," he added.

Reynolds says effects could worsen should you add alcohol or a large amount of caffeine to the mix.

"You want to make sure you're a) healthy and b) you limit your stay [in the water]," he said.

Pepper Geddings Aquatics Director Kathy Anderson says even over-exercising in a heated pool can prove dangerous to some people.

"If the water's too warm, their body temperature warms up a little too much - and then they have other heat exposure problems," she explained.

That's why both Anderson and Reynolds say listening to your body is key.

"It's very important to keep watching it - super vision, all the time," Anderson said.

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