(Nation World News) – Carillon Franklin Memorial Hospital in Rocky Mount, Virginia, is full, which is taking its share of Covid-19 cases and more common problems at this time of year, like boating accidents. But its professionals also treat sick patients to something deceptively dangerous: extreme heat.
The high temperature in the region this week is around 32°C, but when the humidity is taken into account, the heat rises to 40°C.
“We’ve asked people to come here today after mowing the lawn,” emergency doctor Dr. Stephanie Lareau said on Tuesday. “Fortunately, sports practice has not started yet, so we haven’t got much of a youth population. When football practice starts we see many cases related to extreme heat,” he said.
Studies show that among all natural disasters, heat claims the most lives. And as temperatures continue to rise from the climate crisis, scientists predict it could affect more people.
What’s more, heat waves are already happening more frequently. In the 1960s, Americans experienced about two heat waves a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while in 2010 that figure rose to six.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat-related illnesses are the leading cause of death and disability in US high school athletes. But summer can be a problem for anyone with everyday activities like mowing the lawn or going for a walk.
The National Weather Service this week issued extreme heat watches for a part of the country that stretches from the upper central west to the southeast. From Dayton to Durham, medical professionals have told residents to stay indoors as much as possible. A tough recommendation to follow due to the fact that half a million customers had no electricity this Tuesday due to a severe storm, PowerOutage.US indicated.
The heat has forced the closure of schools in Minnesota and Milwaukee, as well as the cancellation of horse racing in Kentucky and Indiana. UC Davis also cut short its graduation, as dozens of attendees sought therapy because of their exposure to heat.
What causes excessive heat in the body?
The two most common heat-related conditions are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Due to heat stroke, the body is unable to cool itself down. Your temperature rises rapidly and your natural cooling mechanism, sweating, fails. A person’s temperature can rise to a dangerous 41°C or more in just 10 to 15 minutes. This can lead to disability or even death.
A person suffering from heat stroke sweats excessively or not. You may become confused or pass out, and even have seizures.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water or salt due to excessive sweating. This condition can present symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, irritability, thirst, headache and elevated body temperature.
Emergency help is urgently needed for both situations. Until that help arrives, you can try to cool it down by moving it to the shade and giving it water.
Extremely high temperatures can also put significant pressure on the heart or make breathing difficult.
Heat can be linked to at least 17 causes of death, most of which are related to heart and respiratory problems. But, they also include suicide, drowning and murder.
Additionally, some research has shown that exposure to extreme heat can cause mental health problems, problems for pregnant women, and harmful birth outcomes.
Who are the weakest?
The CDC says the elderly, children, people with chronic illnesses and those with mental health problems are at greatest risk of conditions related to extreme heat, as well as those taking certain medications.
However, young, healthy people are not immune, warned Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Bernstein conducted a study published in January that found that nationwide exposure to heat increased the number of children in emergency rooms for any reason during the summer.
And these admissions didn’t just happen on the hottest days: they were on the border of days with hotter temperatures.
But it doesn’t end there: According to Bernstein’s study, a baby born in the United States now will experience 35 times more life-threatening heat events than someone born in 1961. And it is best positioned if global temperatures rise by just 1.5°C over the next two decades. “Something we are not achieving,” Bernstein said, “is the most conservatively projected scenario.”
“It’s a big change in just 60 years,” he added in his finding. “It’s a big deal for me.”
Extreme heat doesn’t kill as many children as older people. But these “climate shocks,” as Bernstein calls them, can add stress to a child’s life. And it has a cumulative effect, so it can be just as harmful as poverty or any other stress, he explained. According to Bernstein, this, in turn, contributes to substance use problems and higher rates of health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
“We need to focus on these climate shocks and protect children, as they can pose a lifelong health threat,” he stressed. “They are devastating to your lifetime health potential.”
Now, the problem isn’t just exposure to extreme temperatures. According to a study published last year, just having higher temperatures increases particulate and ozone pollution, and causes hundreds of thousands of additional deaths in all age groups worldwide.
“There is a direct linear relationship between external ozone concentration and temperature, so this is projected to be another problem as our climate warms,” said Dr. John Balmes, spokesman for the American Medical Association of the Lung. “And then, of course, there are often really hot, dry days in the summer when we also have wildfires.”
Exposure to smoke from wildfires, which are largely made up of particulates, can also increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems.
What can officials do to combat problems related to extreme heat?
Some US cities face more problems related to extreme heat than others. Phoenix has over 100 days a year and the average temperature is 37.7 °C. For example, in 2020 it reached a total of 145 days with those conditions. The city created the first publicly funded Office of Heat Response and Mitigation in the country to focus on heat-related issues. The unit works with city government throughout to integrate plans to manage heat issues from all angles.
This office has led the mission to create electric vehicle infrastructure to reduce reliance on fossil fuel emissions worsening climate change. It also works with initiatives focused on the homeless so that they have access to water and shelter. In addition, it implemented a tracking system so that passengers would know when a certain bus would arrive and would not always have to wait outside.
“There are a lot of small actions that can help tackle the challenge of summer,” said program director David Hondula. By focusing one’s attention on this specific issue, other departments in the city may think about mitigating this problem. This is a huge goal which, if done properly, can save lives.
Hondula said, “We are moving in the wrong direction, regionally, in tackling heat deaths, an increase of more than 400% since 2014. In terms of population growth, demographic change, we are not at all Also expect results.” ,
Miami also added the position of director of heat, although that office is not funded by the city. Exactly this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to create the heat director position.
How can you protect yourself from extreme heat?
There are several steps you can take to avoid heat-related situations. Lareau stresses the need to stay hydrated: Make sure you drink water before you feel thirsty.
When you have to go out, take a break from the heat from time to time.
Allow yourself to acclimatize to the high temperature before running a marathon or doing any other extreme outdoor exercise.
And wear sunscreen: People who get sunburned are less able to regulate their body temperature.
Lareau said it is important to keep an eye on not only the temperature but also the heat index, as it takes into account the humidity. And it may be more important for heat-related illnesses.
He advises people to help monitor people who are too young or too old, because they can’t control their body temperature well enough. When planning activities, try to keep them out of the heat and see if your neighbors are okay.
“People often think of doing this during a snow storm, but the heat can be dangerous for the elderly. Especially if they don’t have air conditioning,” Lareau said. “So if you can offer to mow the lawn or do their chores for them when they’re younger and healthier, and handle the heat a little bit better, everyone benefits.”