Global warming might seem like a far-off and unreal event to you, but its impact is already being felt. And it could become a major health threat sooner than you think.
Here’s how global warming works. Certain gases in our planet’s air increase, mostly due to pollution. The most common of these is carbon dioxide. These gases build up in the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect. This cushion in the atmosphere traps heat, warming up the entire planet. At the right levels, the greenhouse effect is what makes our planet livable. It would be a much colder place and would not have much life. But because of industry, more and more gas is being released. So the climate is getting hotter. Glaciers are melting and sea levels are increasing. Plant life, animals, and humans are all feeling the effects. And things could get much worse. Some scientists are even predicting that the backlash will be another ice age. But right now we’re concerned with the more immediate health effects.
I’m talking heat waves. Most of us have noticed that summers seem to be getting hotter and the other seasons are warming up, too. This could be very dangerous, especially to older people, obese individuals, and those with existing heart problems.
According to U.S. researchers, whenever there’s a heat wave, the death rates go up by 5.74%. Between 1989 and 2000, cardiac arrest and heart attacks were the causes of death boosted the most by extreme temperature changes. The increase of cold mortality rates was lower, at 1.59%. This could be because central heating is much more commonplace than central air conditioning.
Extreme heat is no laughing matter. When the body’s temperature goes up too high or too quickly, this can cause damage. At this point, your natural heat-fighting mechanism — sweating — isn’t sufficient. Heat stress can cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramps, sunburn, and heat rash. The unusual strain that extreme heat puts on your body can also lead to cardiac arrest and heart attack, either of which can be deadly. Older people are usually the victims during a heat wave. The aging body doesn’t perspire as much, and common age-related issues also make it more prone to heat-caused illness.
Unfortunately, the short-term method of prevention could make the problem of global warming worse. Air conditioning use means increased energy consumption. And that means more gas emissions. And that leads to an increased greenhouse effect. What to do? Well, that’s for scientists and politicians to hammer out. Soon. For now, you need to take care of yourself.
If it’s hot out, then go somewhere cool. A mall, library, movie theater, or community center. . . it doesn’t matter, just stay indoors. Preferably somewhere with air conditioning. Avoid any kind of physical activity, especially if you’re in one of the risk groups. Avoid hot or heavy meals. Limit or cut out salt and alcohol. These will make the situation worse. Make use of a ceiling or standing fan. You can also beat the heat by taking frequent cool showers or baths. And drink lots of water. If you’re elderly or ill, make sure that you have someone check on your regularly. Pay attention to your body during a heat wave. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, weak, and/or experience rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, cramps, intense headache, vomiting, breathing problems, or chest pain, seek urgent medical attention immediately.
So, don’t ignore global warming. It’s not just a distant problem for future generations… it’s a health threat now.