UNITED STATES – Summertime, 2023 – Heat-related illness is the nation’s leader of weather-related fatalities. About 700 people every year die in the United States from exposure to extreme heat, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Climate change has caused more frequent extreme weather events like higher temperatures and heat waves; therefore, people are faced with more occasions to develop heat-related illness.
The recent heat wave in June with record-breaking temperatures over 110 degrees in Texas has affected over 90 million people under heat alerts across the south and Central U.S. from New Mexico to Florida. As of June 28th, 14 people have died due to heat-related illness in Texas and Louisiana. This week, extreme temperatures spread northward to the Plains states and eastward to the Southeast region. University of Michigan Public Health Professor Marie O’Neil commented, “With climate change, extreme weather, including heat, is becoming more frequent and intense. Hot weather has unequal impacts, and seniors, very young children, outdoor workers, people without access to air conditioning, and those with chronic illnesses are among the most vulnerable.”
Many factors play a role creating heat stress like environmental conditions, physical activity, clothing or protection gear, and individual risk factors. Environmental heat factors include: air temperature, humidity, local radiant heat sources, and air flow. The heat index, commonly used to measure environmental conditions, is determined by air temperature and humidity. An index above 80 is considered to be a significant minimal threshold to develop heat-related illness. During the current heat wave, the readings have exceeded 100 throughout the southern states.
People can overheat very quickly leading to potential health problems. They should limit their exposure to high temperatures. Heat exhaustion occurs to due to loss of water and salt from excessive sweating. Signs include: headache, dizziness, fainting, weakness, heavy sweating, confusion, thirst, nausea or vomiting. People should get out of the heat with any signs of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is a more severe condition and can be fatal. Sweating stops and the body can no longer remove excess heat. Signs include: confusion, passing out, seizures, and hot dry skin. Anyone with signs of heat stroke should be moved to a cooler place to lower body temperature immediately followed by a 911 call for immediate medical assistance. It is recommended that everyone take frequent breaks out of the heat, drink plenty of water (at least one pint per hour), wear light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothing, rest in the shade, and in a cool place.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com