Surging Temp Pose Severe Health Risks Across US: Experts Urge Immediate Precautions

A woman pours water on a man near the Colosseum, during a heatwave across Italy, as temperatures are expected to rise further in the coming days, in Rome, Italy July 18, 2023. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

United States: Across the United States, temperatures are poised to surge dangerously high in several regions. Health authorities are urgently advising proactive measures to safeguard against this impending heat wave.

A wave of intense heat has already gripped many Southern states since the weekend, forewarning of what lies ahead for the Midwest and Northeast.

According to CBS News senior weather and climate producer David Parkinson, approximately 22 million individuals across the US are set to experience temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week. An additional 265 million will contend with temperatures in the 90s, with 58 million under heat advisories, according to CBS News.

This heat wave follows an uncharacteristically early one in the Southwest last week, where temperatures reached triple digits in cities like Phoenix, a region that tragically recorded 645 heat-related fatalities last year. By 5 pm on Saturday, temperatures in Phoenix had already spiked to 111 degrees Fahrenheit, eventually peaking at 112 degrees by day’s end. The National Weather Service noted this reading was seven degrees higher than the average temperature for June 15 in previous years, though still below the record high of 115 degrees set in 1896 and 1974.

Globally, record-high temperatures have been observed this year, impacting over three-quarters of the world’s population with at least one month of extreme heat.

Last year, the United States witnessed the highest number of heat waves since 1936, characterized by prolonged periods of abnormally hot weather lasting more than two days. The South and Southwest regions experienced their most severe year on record, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The next anticipated heat wave is projected to intensify starting Sunday in the central U.S., spreading eastwards thereafter, according to the National Weather Service. Some regions may see temperatures break daily records amidst this prolonged heat spell, which is expected to persist through the week and into the upcoming weekend. Portions of the country are also likely to be affected by a heat dome, where atmospheric conditions trap hot air.

Which areas will face the brunt of this extreme heat? According to the National Weather Service’s heat risk map, regions from Texas to Maine are anticipated to experience extreme heat conditions, lacking overnight relief. The heat is expected to advance swiftly eastwards from the Plains states on Sunday, encompassing the Great Lakes and Upper Ohio Valley by Monday, before reaching the Northeast by Tuesday, as outlined by the Weather Prediction Center’s latest forecast.

Temperatures are predicted to peak in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, with National Weather Service meteorologist William Churchill cautioning that such temperatures, even in early summer, are notable. Increased humidity levels will exacerbate the perception of heat in many locales, with peak temperatures likely extending as far north as Vermont and New Hampshire, according to the weather prediction center.

Forecasters anticipate that this heat could establish new daily and potentially monthly temperature records in the Ohio Valley and Northeast. Elevated dew points could elevate the heat index to as much as 105 degrees in certain areas, further heightening discomfort levels, as detailed by the weather service. Moreover, there is a slight chance that northern Maine could experience temperatures reaching 100 degrees, an anomaly noted by David Roth, a forecaster with the Weather Prediction Center, in conversation with AP, as per CBS.

“In Caribou, a town in northern Maine accustomed to tallying its annual count of 80-degree days, the prospect of reaching 100 degrees is exceedingly rare,” remarked Roth.

In Pittsburgh, an excessive heat warning was scheduled to take effect on Monday and persist through the week, coinciding with an anticipated surge in temperatures. CBS Pittsburgh reported that Monday’s temperatures might shatter or tie the city’s existing daily record of 95 degrees, with the heat index likely to surpass triple digits. Not since 1988 has Pittsburgh confronted a heat wave of this severity, according to local reports.

The metropolitan Detroit area is also bracing for its most intense heat wave in over two decades, with temperatures forecasted to hover in the mid-90s and heat indices potentially exceeding 100 degrees starting Monday, extending through the weekend, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Freitag. There exists a possibility that the region could record its first 100-degree day since July 2012.

As nighttime temperatures hover in the low to mid-70s, such concerns seem trifling; nevertheless, the compounded effects of enduring the scorching heat cannot be underestimated, especially according to Freitag, as per CBS News.

Let me ask you a question: What are the consequences of high temperatures? According to the doctors, it is imperative to note that heat-related illnesses are very dangerous, and in the worst-case scenarios, they can cause death, especially if not identified in their early stages, which often cause muscular cramps or spasms.

The signs of heat exhaustion include extreme sweating and weakness, low blood pressure, pale or cold skin, headache, dizziness, nausea, and sometimes fainting. Finding the child or adult and quickly moving them to a cooler area with air conditioning, giving the affected person water to drink, unbuttoning their shirt or removing layers of clothing, wiping the skin with cool, wet cloths, or taking a cool bath should be done. If there is vomiting, children should receive medical care.

While heat cramps are accompanied by muscle spasms as well as weakness in the arms and legs, there may be headaches, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and body temperatures rising above 103 degrees, indicating heat stroke. Despite this, people may experience symptoms including hot and red skin or dry and damp skin, tachycardia, or fainting and fall unconsciousness. It is recommended that a person experiencing the symptoms should seek medical help by dialing 911. Apart from efforts such as using cold water on the affected areas of the body or giving the individual a cool bath and putting the individual in a cool area, should also not be administered fluids to the person.

In a study done to predict heat related deaths, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health in 2023, it was estimated that heat death rates, most especially those from extremely hot temperatures were expected to rise between 2036 and 2065.

Lead author of the study and Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s medicine, Dr. Sameed Khatana, added facts to the potential worsening of climate change on world health in the future, with worse consequences for some groups predicted, thereby worsening health inequalities in the US, CBS mentioned.

Some of the groups that are most at risk include children below the age of five years, the aged, pregnant women and the sick who have chronic illnesses, those who have walking difficulties due to one reason or the other, and everyone who lives alone. About the heat, the NIH-supported study also brought to light the fact that Black Americans were more susceptible to the harms of heat that may result in deaths or sicknesses.

How can one safeguard against extreme heat? Experts advocate remaining indoors in air-conditioned spaces and minimizing outdoor activities during periods of intense heat. Communities are advised to consider opening cooling centers, particularly for those without access to air conditioning. Contingency planning for power outages is crucial even for those with air conditioning, cautioned Steven Freitag from the National Weather Service. Restricting outdoor activities to early morning hours or abstaining altogether from venturing outside during peak daytime heat is advised.

Additional recommendations from the CDC include staying hydrated, taking cool showers or baths, wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, and minimizing stove and oven use.

Checking on friends and relatives, particularly those without air conditioning, is essential, as is community preparedness through initiatives like opening cooling centers in public facilities such as schools and libraries. Some jurisdictions employ text messaging services or hotline support to aid residents during heat emergencies.

In Franklin County, Ohio, efforts are underway to distribute fans to residents aged 60 and older through the office on aging, noted spokeswoman Kristin Howard, CBS News mentioned.

Businesses with outdoor workers are adjusting schedules to commence activities earlier in the day to mitigate exposure during peak heat periods.

“In conditions of this magnitude, outdoor activities should be limited to brief durations, preferably during the early morning hours,” emphasized Freitag, adding, “However, strenuous physical exertion outdoors is strongly discouraged during peak daytime hours.”

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