By Pharmacist, Doreen
A heat wave, or heatwave, or extreme heat, is a period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. While definitions vary, a heat wave is usually measured relative to the usual climate in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season. Temperatures that people from a hotter climate consider normal can be called a heat wave in a cooler area if they are outside the normal climate pattern for that area.
Heat waves, which can last for several days, can have a significant impact on society, including a rise in heat-related deaths. Heatwaves are among the most dangerous of natural hazards, but rarely receive adequate attention because their death tolls and destruction are not always immediately obvious.
Population exposure to heat is increasing due to climate change. Globally, extreme temperature events are observed to be increasing in their frequency, duration, and magnitude. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heatwaves increased by around 125 million.
Why do our bodies react this way?
Our bodies strive to keep a core temperature of about 37C whether we're in a snowstorm or a heatwave.
It is the temperature our bodies have evolved to work at.
But as the weather gets hotter, the body has to work harder to keep its core temperature down.
It opens more blood vessels near the skin to lose heat to our surroundings and starts sweating.
As the sweat evaporates, it dramatically increases the heat lost from the skin.
Coping with the heat
During extreme heat, whether it’s one hot day or a heatwave, remember:
- Drink water, to stay adequately hydrated (if your doctor normally limits your fluids, check with your doctor how much to drink during hot weather). Carry a water bottle with you always.
- Hot cars kill. Never leave kids, older people or pets in cars. The temperature inside a parked car can double within minutes.
- Keep yourself cool by using damp towels containing ice, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers
- If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping centre or public library
- Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds
- Open the windows when there is a cool breeze, the outside temperature is cooler than inside, and if it is safe to do so
- Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you do have to go outside, wear a hat and sunscreen, and seek shade
- Cancel or postpone outings. If you absolutely must go out, stay in the shade and take plenty of water with you
- Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen
- Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads
- Allow yourself plenty of time to rest and avoid heavy activity like sport, renovating and gardening
- Watch, read or listen to news reports to find out more information during extreme heat and when heatwaves are forecast.
- Heatwaves retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/heatwaves#tab=tab_1
- Heat wave retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_wave
- Heat waves: what they do to the body and who is at risk retrieved fr https://www.bbc.com/news/health-49112807
- How to cope and stay safe in extreme heat retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/how-to-cope-and-stay-safe-in-extreme-heat