THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO), HAS REPORTED THAT POPULATION EXPOSURE TO HEAT IS INCREASING DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE.
The WHO states, ‘global temperatures and the frequency and intensity of heatwaves will rise in the 21st century as a result of climate change’. Extended periods of heat exposure during the day and night time can increase the amount of physiological stress on the human body.’
The stress caused by heat exposure exacerbates the top causes of death globally. This includes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and renal disease.
They go on to state, ‘Exposure to excessive heat has wide-ranging physiological impacts for all humans, often amplifying existing conditions and resulting in premature death and disability.’
With the temperature said to continue rising, the WHO also states, ‘Awareness remains insufficient of the health risks posed by heatwaves and prolonged exposure to increased temperatures.’
So, who is most affected by heat exposure and how will it impact your health?
Who is affected?
Rising temperatures affect the whole population. However, some populations are more vulnerable to exposure to excessive heat. Those include:
- Elderly people
- Infants and children
- Pregnant women
- Outdoor and manual workers
- Poorer communities
How does heat impact health?
With rapid increases in external temperatures, the body will struggle to regulate our internal temperatures. The knock-on effect of this can result in a number of heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. Reported small differences in the seasonal changes have been reported to have increased the number of heat-related illness and even death. Rising temperatures can also worsen chronic conditions such as cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions.
What actions can you take to stay cool?
- Aim to keep your living space cool. WHO suggests ‘below 32 °C during the day and 24 °C during the night’
- If it is safe, open your windows at night time to cool your living space.
- Stay out of the heat by staying in the shade and avoiding going outside during the hottest part of the day.
- Take cool showers and wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Drink regularly and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Check on vulnerable family members who may be affected by the heat.
What to do if someone shows signs of a heat emergency?
It is extremely important to know what to do when someone is showing signs of heat illness. Everyone should know how to respond to heat emergencies, this can be learnt in first aid courses.
If one of your family members or someone you assist is showing signs of hot dry skin and delirium, convulsions and/or unconsciousness, call a doctor/ambulance immediately.
Whilst you are waiting for help to arrive place them in a cool place in a horizontal position and elevate their legs. It is now important to initiate external cooling.
This can be done by:
- Removing clothing
- Placing cold packs on the neck and groin
- Spraying cool water on their skin
- Fanning them
- If they are unconscious, place them on their side
If you or someone you are with is displaying mild signs of heat illness that is not considered an emergency, you might want to consider a same-day GP appointment. You can book an appointment online.
How to Cope During a Heatwave
The UK is currently experiencing a heatwave with temperatures rising to 35 degrees in some parts of the country this week. While sunshine is welcome and the vitamin D is much needed, too much heat can lead to illness. To avoid any heat-related sickness, make sure you are well-prepared! Follow Fleet Street Clinic’s tips to help keep safe during the hot weather.
Risks During the Heat:
- Exposure to such high temperatures increases sweating, and results in loss of fluid and electrolytes causing rapid dehydration. This can result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke which can be life threatening if not dealt with promptly.
- The highest risk groups are the elderly, babies, children and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
- If you engage in strenuous physical activity this will increase the risk of illness related to the heat.
Top 7 Tips For Beating the Heat
- Seek shelter and shade during the middle of the day (11am -3pm).
- If you are outside, ensure you protect your skin against the sun with a high factor sun cream, hat and sunglasses.
- Wear loose fitting, light-weight and light colour clothing.
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and eating food with a high water content (such as fruit).
- Ensure you are taking in sufficient salt in your diet (sweating leads to electrolyte and salt depletion).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen heat-related illness.
- Heat stroke can be a life-threatening emergency and medical help should be sought.
About Fleet Street Clinic
Fleet Street Clinic is an independent healthcare practice in London. For more advice or to book an appointment with our expert medical team, you can book online.