London: The world is baking under extreme heat – with Asia, Europe and the United States all dealing with scorching temperatures.
What are the health risks?
Heat affects health in several ways. Heat exhaustion, which can include dizziness, headaches, shaking and thirst, can affect anyone, and is not usually serious, providing the person cools down within 30 minutes.
The more serious version is heatstroke, when the body’s core temperature goes above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius). It is a medical emergency and can lead to long-term organ damage and death. Symptoms include rapid breathing, confusion or seizures, and nausea.
Who is at risk?
Some people are more vulnerable, including young babies and older people, as well as people who must stay active or are more exposed, such as homeless people.
Existing conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as diabetes, can also heighten risk – and be exacerbated by heat.
Globally, just under half a million deaths a year are estimated to be due to excess heat, according to a 2021 study in The Lancet, although data is lacking from many low-income countries. As many as 61,000 people may have died in Europe during heatwaves last summer, with a repetition feared this season. Professor Liz Stephens, a researcher in climate risk and resilience at Britain’s University of Reading, said,
Heat waves are a silent and invisible killer. We don’t often see the impact that they have had on human health until the mortality statistics are published many months later.
Less Obvious Risks
Air pollution also poses a health risk, with serious potential effects from wildfire smoke including inflammation and tissue damage.
Heat also can lead to low birthweight and premature birth for pregnant women and babies, a number of studies have shown.
There are less obvious risks, too. Dr Vikki Thompson, Climate Scientist, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, said extreme heat often contributes to poorer mental health, as well as a rise in car crashes and drownings.
Heatwaves are one of the most deadly natural hazards, she said.
Experts say more deaths occur earlier in the summer when people’s bodies have not had chance to acclimatize.
Location matters, too; people are at higher risk in places where they are not used to such heat, including parts of Europe.
However, there are limits, and people all around the world are at risk in extremely hot weather caused by climate change, particularly people who must continue to work in physical jobs, for example. r Modi Mwatsama, head of capacity at Wellcome, a London-based global health charity, said,
It is more important than ever that we put in place measures to limit the harm on our health.
She said this ranged from providing shade and painting buildings white to investing in early-warning systems for climate-sensitive infectious diseases, like cholera.
What can you do?
Public health agencies from Italy to the United States have issued advice on keeping cool, including avoiding exertion where possible and staying hydrated. Workers should think about having more breaks and changing their clothing too, scientists said.
It is also important to check on the vulnerable, including older and isolated people, they said. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate professional attention.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toiletsare used and open defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.