quotes Managing extreme temperatures in KSA and abroad

21 June 2024
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Updated 20 June 2024

Managing extreme temperatures in KSA and abroad

The impact of climate change is becoming ever more evident with rising temperatures and forecasts predicting higher than normal temperatures throughout summer.

With heat alerts being issued in several countries and scorching temperatures becoming more common, one must take precautions to protect from the weather. It is important to be aware of the impact extreme heat can have on your health, identify signs, know what steps to take, and arrange your summer plans accordingly.

Additionally, it is imperative to know who is more vulnerable for them to take extra precautions. For instance, do not leave your child unattended in the car, doing so is also a violation of the law — and do not leave your pets unattended in the car, either.

Why does it matter?

Extreme heat events, which describe a prolonged episode of hot environmental conditions, have led to a significant number of preventable deaths. The 2003 European heatwave caused 70,000 deaths and in 2010 a Russian heat wave caused 55,000 deaths. With climate change, the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat events are expected to increase. Heat can also fuel additional extreme weather such as severe thunderstorms.

Does space have a role here?

Space technology has a major role in the monitoring, mitigation and prevention of temperature and weather-related events. A number of satellites monitor Earth’s temperatures, in addition to observing the environment, climate and monitoring the consequences of weather-related events. The data is then used to model heatwaves and this integration of space data helps in enhancing prediction and management of heatwaves and extreme weather events. NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems program provides free and open access to its data. Here, one can also find extreme heat data which is freely available and includes details on temperature, humidity, weather maps and even heat-related socioeconomic data.

Who is more vulnerable?

Seniors, children, those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, respiratory diseases, those with mental health conditions, people taking medications, individuals who are bedridden and/or have difficulty in self-care, low socio-economic situation, poor social support and those working outdoors are all factors that increase the risk of being impacted by extreme heat. Although being physically active is important and having health benefits, exercising in extreme heat also puts one at an increased risk of having heat-related illness.

Impact on health and how to manage heat illness?

The impact on health involves heat illness which involves the body’s inability to cope with heat. The stages of heat illness range from heat edema (swelling), heat rash, heat cramps, going to more severe issues such as heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

It is important to be aware of the impact extreme heat can have on your health.

In order to manage and prevent heat-related illness, it is always good to know your risks, so talk to your family doctor to see if you fall into a higher risk category. Then it is important to keep up with the news and forecasts to know if there are any upcoming heat-related events (it would be helpful to check this prior to planning out an outdoor activity or trip). Additionally, always check with your city’s local authorities for guidelines and recommendations.

Steps that you can take to help with the heat are to ensure that you are adequately hydrated, wearing appropriate clothing, try to shade yourself from the heat (and apply sunscreen), eat and drink items that help keep you cool, and limit going outside during the midday and/or the hottest times of day. Similarly, ensure your air conditioner is working adequately and get to know the closest air-conditioned building that is open to the public where you can also cool off.

It is also very important to reach out to your vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours to check on how they are handling the heat and taking appropriate steps to protect themselves.

Someone experiencing heat illness usually experiences symptoms such as dizziness, feeling faint, headache, nausea, increased thirst or feeling their breathing or heart rate is fast. When experiencing this, go to a cool environment, drink fluids, and depending on the severity or risk, seek medical attention.

One also has to be careful while staying indoors as during extreme heat events indoor temperatures also rise in homes, classrooms and in the workplace.

It is important to note that those who are planning to go on holiday with the hopes of beating the heat also need to make sure their travel plans include heat and extreme weather management strategies. Currently, heatwaves are taking place around the world including in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. When you are in another country, be sure to keep an eye for resources and recommendations there to manage extreme heat.

Dr. Farhan M. Asrar is a Canadian public health and family physician with leadership appointments at the University of Toronto, Dalla-Lana School of Public Health, International Space University, McMaster University, and Trillium Health Partners. He is internationally recognized for his expertise and research in public health, space medicine, primary care, health innovation, environment and climate change.