High temperatures in the area this week are in the 90s, but when you factor in humidity, the heat index climbs as high as 104.
“We’ve had people just coming in today after mowing their lawn,” Dr. Stephanie Lareau, an emergency room physician, said Tuesday. “Luckily, sports hasn’t started back yet, so we haven’t seen a lot of the youth population. We see a lot of heat-related cases when football practice starts.”
Of all the natural disasters, heat is the No. 1 killer, studies show. And as temperatures continue to rise because of the climate crisis, scientists expect it to make even more people ill.
What heat does to the body
Two of the most common heat-related conditions are heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
A person who has heatstroke may sweat profusely or not at all. They can become confused or pass out, and they could have a seizure.
Heat exhaustion happens when the body losses too much water or salt through excessive sweating. That can come with symptoms like nausea, dizziness, irritability, thirst, headache and elevated body temperature.
With both conditions, emergency help is needed quickly. While waiting for assistance, bystanders can try to cool the person by moving them to the shade and giving them with water.
Who is vulnerable
These visits weren’t just on the hottest days; they were across a range of days with warmer temperatures.
A child born in the US today will experience 35 times more life-threatening heat events then someone born in 1961, his research showed. And that’s given the best-case scenario, with the world seeing a rise in temperatures of only 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next couple of decades — “which we ain’t doing,” Bernstein added. “This is the most conservative scenario projected.
“It’s a big change in only 60 years,” he added. “That, to me, is a major problem.”
“We need to focus on these climate shocks and buffering children, because they can pose such lifelong health threats,” he said. “It is devastating to your lifetime health potential.”
“There’s a direct linear relationship between the concentration of ozone outdoors and the temperature, and so that’s projected to be more of a problem as as our climate gets warmer,” said Dr. John Balmes, a medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association. “And then, of course, those really hot, dry days in the summer are often when we have wildfires, too.”
What officials can do about heat-related issues
“We’re moving, regionally, very much in the wrong direction with heat-associated deaths, seeing a more than a 400% increase since 2014. That far outpaces anything we’d expect in terms of population growth, demographic change,” Hondula said.
How to protect yourself
To avoid heat-related illness, there is something you can do. Lareau emphasizes the need to stay hydrated; make sure you drink water before you notice that you’re thirsty.
Take periodic breaks from the heat when you have to be outside.
Let yourself acclimate to high temperatures before you start running marathons or doing in any other extreme outdoor exercise.
And wear sunscreen: People who are sunburned have less of an ability to regulate their body temperature.
She said it’s important to keep an eye not just on the temperature but on the heat index, because it takes into account humidity, and that can matter more for heat-related illness.
She also advises people to help monitor those who are very young or very old, because they’re not able to regulate their body temperature as well. When planning activities, try to keep them out of the heat, and check in on neighbors.
“People often think of doing that during snowstorms, but the heat can be as dangerous for the elderly, especially if they don’t have air conditioning,” Lareau said. “So if you can offer to cut their grass or do their chores for them if you’re younger and healthier and can withstand the heat a little bit better, everyone benefits.”