Summer has only just begun, and it’s been incredibly hot here in the US and around the world. As we previously covered, extreme heat events have become more frequent and intense over the past decades as the planet warms due to climate change.
While excessive heat is bad for many things in our environment, we humans are particularly susceptible to heat issues. In fact, excessive heat is responsible for more deaths than any other weather-related hazard in the US.
Heat Exhaustion Versus Heatstroke
Heat-related illnesses range from mild heat exhaustion to life-threatening heatstroke. Heat exhaustion often occurs when you’re in a hot environment and haven’t been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and headache. Heatstroke may take place if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. At that point, you may experience confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions are at greater risk of heat-related illnesses.
Humidity Makes Excessive Heat Even Hotter
Not only is a high air temperature dangerous, more humidity in the air can exacerbate the conditions, making the air feel even hotter. High humidity can hinder the body's ability to cool itself through sweating, making heat-related illnesses more likely. The heat index takes into account both temperature and humidity to determine how hot it feels to the human body, so check your weather for this measure before venturing out to gauge how hot it really feels outside.
Given all the dangers of excessive heat, how do you stay cool? Below are several suggestions to beat the heat:
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration.
Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight and help your body stay cooler.
Seek Shade: Whenever possible, find shaded areas to rest and avoid direct exposure to the sun during peak heat hours (typically from late morning to early evening).
Use Sunscreen: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Take Regular Breaks: If you're engaging in outdoor activities, take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas to allow your body to cool down.
Use Hats and Sunglasses: Protect your head and eyes from direct sunlight by wearing hats and sunglasses.
Avoid Strenuous Activities: Minimize physical exertion during the hottest parts of the day, especially if you're not accustomed to high temperatures.
Cool Down: Use cool compresses, take cool showers, or use cooling fans to lower your body temperature.
Beyond protecting yourself from the heat, consider raising awareness about climate change and advocating for sustainable practices can contribute to a healthier and safer future for all.