Extreme heat events are becoming more frequent and deadly due to climate change, causing tragic consequences for human health. In the past, heat waves have led to tens of thousands of deaths, and with rising temperatures, these risks will only increase. The human body can adapt to heat to some extent, primarily through sweating and redirecting blood to the skin’s surface. However, climate change is making heat waves more dangerous by increasing humidity and nighttime temperatures, making it harder for our bodies to cool down.
The combination of higher heat, humidity, and hotter nights puts a significant strain on our body’s cooling systems. Prolonged exposure to such conditions can lead to cardiovascular failure, especially in older individuals, as well as organ failure, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Even sweating carries risks, as dehydration can put additional strain on the heart and kidneys.
Despite these dire consequences, there is a window of opportunity for prevention. Heat-related deaths are mostly preventable through both individual and societal actions. Staying hydrated, using air conditioning if available, and avoiding vigorous activity during the hottest hours of the day can help individuals stay safe. Vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, pregnant individuals, and those with certain medical conditions, should take extra precautions. Governments can also play a role by implementing early warning systems, encouraging cooling infrastructure like green roofs and trees, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate extremes.
Ultimately, protecting against extreme heat requires a collective effort and a commitment to safeguarding the most vulnerable in society.