The world is becoming a hotter place. Temperatures have risen approximately 0.14°F since 1880, but the pace has more than doubled since 1981. Furthermore, climate change means extreme heat events have become more common and natural disasters like hurricanes often leave people sweltering without power or air conditioning.
Temperature extremes take a toll on the human body. You aren’t alone if you’ve suffered adverse effects. Here’s how heat impacts your health.
1. It Affects Your Productivity
You might joke about the office thermostat wars. However, temperature does impact overall effectiveness in the workplace. Recent research published in the Journal PLoS ONE shows that men do best in temperatures below 70°F and women do better between 70° and 80°. This gender disparity might not surprise you if you’re the sort who constantly carries a sweater.
Therefore, the best workplace compromise is to keep your dial set to the low 70s. However, what if you don’t feel a cool breeze when you adjust the temperature? You might have a frozen unit on your hands. While you can thaw it out by adjusting the thermostat to run only the fan to circulate air and defrost it faster, you should follow up with a call to the repair center. You could have deeper problems, like collapsed air ducts or a damaged blower fan, to address before the next heat wave.
Doing so is critical, especially in urban environments. Those most susceptible to heat-related illnesses are those living in cities without access to air conditioning.
2. It Threatens Heat-Related Illnesses
Without a doubt, the most serious impact of heat on your health occurs from heat-related illnesses. These come in three varieties:
- Heat exhaustion – Consider this illness like your car’s temperature sensor. If you experience any symptoms, please take immediate action to avoid worsening your condition. You’ll experience headaches, nausea, weakness, fatigue, pale and moist skin, and fever. Please move to a shaded, cooler location, remove excess clothing, and sip cool (not cold) sports drinks to replace fluids and electrolytes.
- Heat cramps – These are painful cramps, typically in the legs. They may occur with heat exhaustion. The treatment is the same, although you should also gently stretch cramped areas.
- Heat stroke – This is the most severe heat-related illness. You stop sweating and develop warm, dry skin. You may experience seizures or loss of consciousness. This condition requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal.
You should also seek professional care for milder heat-related illnesses if symptoms don’t abate within a few minutes. You may require IV fluids.
It Reduces Air Quality
There’s bad news for climate change – air quality decreases when temperatures climb. Soaring temperatures increase ozone and particulate matter concentrations.
Breathing contaminated air can take a devastating toll on human health. The risk of death increases by 6% on high-heat days and 5% on high-pollution days. However, the chances increase to 21% when you combine both conditions. Pay attention to those air quality warnings on your local forecast and plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
It Exacerbates Chronic Disease Symptoms
Temperature extremes aren’t kind to people with chronic illnesses. Many folks with rheumatoid arthritis look forward to summer, as frigid temperatures can worsen their pain. However, high heat can likewise lead to adverse effects.
For example, even healthy hearts work harder in high temperatures. Those with cardiovascular disease feel the strain more than most. Those with pulmonary conditions like COPD also struggle. Finally, high temperatures lead to fluid and electrolyte imbalances that fuel migraines and flares.
It Can Affect Pregnancy
Finally, high-temperature extremes affect pregnant women. Maternal exposure to heat waves during pregnancy increases the risks of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, uterine bleeding, and cervical problems that lead to premature birth.
Furthermore, fetuses exposed to heat waves have a higher incidence of fetal distress and breathing problems at birth. Preterm births also increase, and babies born prematurely often develop developmental delays that hinder their ability to thrive.
How Heat Impacts Your Health
The world is becoming a hotter place. What does this mean for human health? Consider the above ways that heat impacts your health and begin taking proactive measures now to prepare for the next wave.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.