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?
Rising temperatures affect the whole population. However, some populations are more vulnerable to exposure to excessive heat. Those include:
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.
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:
World Health Organisation
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