With global warming, abnormal natural events, hurricanes, floods, and extreme heat waves have begun to be experienced in many parts of the world in recent years.
While the number of people who lost their lives due to extreme heat in the world, especially in Europe, is increasing, some scientists say that people “cannot survive without air conditioning”, especially in regions where drought is experienced such as North Africa, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.
But what is the effect of extreme heat waves on human health? In what degree range is “too hot” for humans?
Of course, it is impossible to explain this complex problem in a single context.
People can be exposed to extreme heat and thirst at certain periods of their lives, even if they are not aware of it. However, the health risks associated with this may vary according to age, body structure, seasonal period, geography and disease status.
The sick, the elderly, pregnant women, young children are at risk
First of all, people with chronic health problems such as heart-respiratory, kidney, high blood pressure, diabetes (diabetes), dementia and Alzheimer’s need to be much more careful about increases in air temperature.
Young children, pregnant women, those who work in more physically demanding jobs in the field or outside the home-workplace are at risk in all kinds of above-normal temperature increases, no matter what the temperature is.
At the beginning of the other difference factors to be considered, the temperatures exceeding the seasonal normals are coming. For example, our body adjusts itself to extreme heat as summer approaches. For this reason, it is much more difficult for our metabolism to withstand a heat wave in the spring than in mid-August.
Those growing in cold climates and over 65 should pay more attention
Finally, it is very important in which geography and region a person grew up. For example, a person who grew up in Istanbul, Barcelona or Rome is much easier to adapt to the extreme heat after turning 30 than someone who grew up in Dublin or Helsinki.
In short, the sensitivity of the human body to extreme temperatures is a relative concept and it is not right to take the same precautions for everyone. However, people who grow up in cold climates, have chronic diseases and are older should be much more careful about “extreme heat waves”. As age progresses, the rate of metabolism slows down and diseases increase. Especially the age of 65 is the critical threshold in this regard. Because after the age of 65, the immune system weakens rapidly and the body’s sensitivity to diseases and external factors increases.
“It’s very difficult to say, to warn about it, or to give a number, which degree is too hot for everyone,” said climate scientist Francesca de’Donato, a research fellow at the Lazio Regional Health Service. says and adds:
“This is not a universal thing. Therefore, there is no international definition of a heat wave or degree. For this reason, we cannot give a risky temperature range or threshold for Europe or the world in general.”
Humidity is the biggest problem, the water vapor held by the atmosphere increases as the Earth warms
However, there is one thing that all scientists agree on, and that is the humidity problem the world is facing.
As the Earth warms, the atmosphere holds more water and water vapor. When the humidity and water vapor ratio in the air rises to a certain level, the body’s defense mechanism against extreme heat activates and sweating to start the cooling process no longer works.
A temperature of 38 degrees with 75 percent humidity can be deadly
For example, in parts of the Persian Gulf, Pakistan, Mexico, and south-east Asia, the temperature and water vapor ratio cross the dangerous threshold at certain times of the year.
But for some people, even an ordinary summer temperature of 38 degrees Celsius can be deadly when the humidity is at least 75 percent.
According to scientists, 3 billion people around the world will have to live in these conditions in the next 50 years.