Heatwaves: How climate change makes these silent killers worse

Chicago, Illinois - Heatwaves are a silent killer, and they can take you right past summer relaxation to heat exhaustion central. And just for good measure, climate change is making them worse.

Heatwaves can be dangerous if they catch you unprepared.
Heatwaves can be dangerous if they catch you unprepared.  © 123RF/praewpailyn

Heatwaves are defined as temperatures being higher than normal for more than two days in a row.

Thanks to climate change, they happen more often, last longer, and get hotter than ever before, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nowadays, heatwaves in US cities pop up earlier in the year than they used to, with deadly effects when buildings aren't kept cool. As the Guardian points out, air conditioning in northern cities like Chicago, Boston, and New York is not as widespread as it is in southern cities.

That makes it even easier for heatwaves to take a deadly turn, like in June 2021, when over 600 people in the Pacific Northwest died as temps hit 114 degrees.

Heat wave risks

Heat waves have a whole range of risks, and will hit you with heat-related illness and even death.

People over the age of 65, young children, and anyone with serious medical conditions feel the heat the most.

Heat exhaustion and heat strokes are two of the main dangers, when too much sunlight and toasty temps make it hard for your body to stay cool.

According to the EPA, you might experience nausea, dizziness, or even confusion. And these are not symptoms you just push through, since heat is actually the number one cause of weather-related death in the country.

But warmer-than-usual temperatures also hit your electricity supply, causing brownouts and even blackouts, and unseasonably warm weather can also kill off crops, making heat waves a full-court threat to everyday life.

How to beat the heat

Make hitting the hydration station your number one priority when the heat's up.
Make hitting the hydration station your number one priority when the heat's up.  © 123rf/karn2608

You're going to sweat a lot when it's warmer, but that only works as long as you stay hydrated, so drinking plenty of water is key to beating the heat.

Be sure to take it slow, keep out of direct sunlight, try to only be outside when it is cooler in the morning or evening, and if you can, check on your people, especially older and very young folks.

And dress for success to give yourself a cooler time by wearing light clothing and hats for days.

Here are five essential tips for beating the heat this summer.

Heatwaves are getting more intense thanks to the climate crisis, and when the next one hits, make sure you and yours are staying as cool and as hydrated as possible.

Cover photo: 123RF/praewpailyn

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