In the United States, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off of the summer, and so June is traditionally the month when heat awareness begins. In recent years, the average temperatures have been consistently increasing with 2019 being the second-warmest year on record, and 2020 shaping up to maintain the trend.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the first three months of 2020 were the planet’s second warmest in 141 years of record-keeping, with average global land and ocean surface temperatures rising 2.07 degrees Fahrenheit (1.15 degrees Celsius) above the average since 1880. The Southeast region has shown particularly high temperatures, which aligns with the warnings that the Union of Concerned Scientists made in their 2019 report that projects rapid, widespread increases in extreme heat due to climate change.
Some of the health illnesses caused by extreme heatwaves are the result of the body’s inability to regulate its temperature and can range from heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. Additionally, there’s a psychological effect that can exacerbate pre-existing conditions. As a consequence, it can cause premature death and disability. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heatwaves increased by around 125 million.”
To protect yourself and your loved ones it’s important to be informed about the health risks, and follow the advice of groups such as the National Integrated Health Information System (NIHHIS), as well as NOAA, and WHO to mention a few. Also, here we present some tips that can come in handy in the coming months to reduce exposure and sensitivity, especially for the two groups at the greatest risk, children and elders.
- Keep your home temperature at – ideally – 32°F during the day and 24°F during the night.
- Open all windows and shutters during the night and early morning when the temperature is lower.
- Turn off artificial lighting and as many electrical devices as possible.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Even if electric fans may provide relief, when the temperature is above 35 °C heat-related illness may not be prevented.
- Avoid outdoor activities during the hottest time of the day. Following close monitoring of the weather conditions will allow you to make the right plans.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothes of natural materials. Make your hat and sunglasses essential parts of your outfit.
- Drink liquids regularly, but avoid alcohol and too much caffeine and sugar.
- Be aware that children and pets are very sensitive to heat, so if needed add a reminder on your phone to prevent leaving them in a vehicle.
Being at home for so many months due to the pandemic may make us forget about the dangers of heatwaves and rush to the beach and public spaces. Just remember, you can follow these simple precautions to keep yourself and your surroundings safe and healthy.