Extreme heat waves have been causing serious health impacts and the public has to deal with these with more vigilance. Recently, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a grand study on various medical conditions that most likely occur in older people during times of extreme and prolonged hot weather. The researchers were able to name several illnesses and disorders that usually cause hospital admissions during such unbearable weather. Identification of these probable conditions enables the analysts to determine the effects of extreme heat on the different organ systems. In previous studies, investigations on heat-related medical cases were mainly focused on respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

For the HSPH study, the analysts reviewed 214 medical conditions that caused 127 billion daily hospital admissions among 23 million people in America from 1999 to 2010. During periods of heat waves, the elderly were the most susceptible to heat stroke. Fluid and electrolyte disorders were also noted causes for hospitalization as well as renal failure, urinary tract infections, and sepsis. All these posed great risks to older people. Moreover, intense hot weather accounts for most cases of weather-related deaths in the United States.

Climate changes are felt in many countries worldwide and the health outcomes of extreme weather conditions are not pleasant. In highly urbanized areas, the risks are higher because temperatures are magnified by concrete pavements and absence of woodlands. Also, higher mortality rates are predicted if heat waves take place more often. According to the National Resources Defense Council, NASA data on global temperature indicate that the years 2010 and 2005 are the hottest. In summer of 2010, extreme heat wave hit Russia and this so far is the strongest in Europe in terms of amplitude and scope.

Being able to identify the diseases that occur during these events enables various health systems to raise awareness and preparedness in handling hospital admissions and emergency room visits brought about by extreme heat. Communities are also informed on how to protect their families, particularly the elderly and young ones, during intense hot days.

The HSPH study was published on December 23, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To contact the writer, email: jm_panganiban@IBTimes.com.au