Protecting Health: How to Stay Safe in an Extreme Heatwave

Protecting Health, preexisting health conditions - How to Stay Safe in an Extreme Heatwave
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Protecting Health, preexisting health conditions - How to Stay Safe in an Extreme Heatwave
Protecting Health: How to Stay Safe in an Extreme Heatwave 13

Given the heat we had this summer, people are wondering if it is safe to be outside. This is a good question because climate change has made heat waves more dangerous. So far, they have been deadly.

In the last few years, climate change caused more than 1/3 of all deaths in the US and worldwide. In America, it is responsible for about 5,600 deaths each year.

It can be a problem for people with chronic health conditions. If you have a chronic condition, know this: the heat is not good for you. We don’t know the range for what temperature is safe, but we do know that any chronic condition can be dangerous in the heat.

What medical conditions can be challenging in high temperatures?

Some people are at risk from too much heat. Elderly people and people taking medicine that affects how the body holds onto the water can be at risk. You should be more careful when it is hot outside if you have any of these conditions.

Heart disease: Heat can increase the risk of heart attacks, arrhythmias, and failure.

Asthma: Anyone with asthma may find it more difficult to breathe on a hot day. Although there is no conclusive evidence, some studies suggest that an inhaler may release less medication in extreme heat and may not be effective, even if stored properly.

If you have a lung condition, you may be more susceptible to the ill effects of extreme heat.

Mental health: Mental illness can be more severe in extreme heat, resulting in an increased rate of suicide and violence.

People who have diabetes type 1 or type 2 might need to take special precautions when it gets hot outside.

Expecting parents are more vulnerable during extreme heat because their unborn child might also be susceptible.

Extreme heat can affect the electrolytes in people with chronic illness or diabetes.

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When this occurs, a person may feel fatigued, have nausea, or have a headache. In extreme cases, heart attack, irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia), or problems with other organs may take place.

Developing a personal cooling plan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that if you have a condition worsened by the heat, like asthma or diabetes, to learn how to avoid symptoms. Talk with your doctor about pharmacologic interventions for temperature-triggered adverse effects before conditions become life-threatening.

If you have a chronic health problem or take multiple medicines, make a plan now for staying cool at home or going to your neighborhood cooling center. Don’t wait for temperatures over when heat alerts are often called, or sometimes even when they are not called at all.

Make sure that you pay close attention to how the weather will affect your health and take measures accordingly.

When your condition already causes flare-ups on days with higher estimated temperatures, you’ll need to be more mindful in your activities during the day. Use air conditioning when possible and try to go outside only in the shade or at night. Stay aware of how you feel and find a cool place inside if needed for relief.

Keep hydrated by drinking water and sports drinks with electrolytes. Choose sports drinks without large amounts of sugar to avoid issues for those diagnosed with diabetes.


Experience with hot weather can be difficult for anyone, but it becomes even more difficult if you have any preexisting health conditions. Talk to your doctor about how hot climates might potentially affect you and decide on a plan to stay cool. Being aware of what symptoms arise may help you avoid problems in the first place.

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