Heat waves bring health risks for vulnerable populations

The summer of 2020 is predicted to bring excessive heat, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With heat comes elevated health risks for vulnerable populations.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more people—particularly the elderly and those with underlying conditions—may be staying home, even if they don’t have air conditioning. Many urban areas are likely to become “heat islands,” with dark pavement and concrete absorbing heat. The most extreme of these disproportionately affect communities of color.

“We need to be mindful that if a weather forecast says it’s going to be 85 degrees, a person who’s at risk might be living where it’s 95,” Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a June 24, 2020 Popular Science article. “It’s really important that people, particularly the medical community, and cities recognize that these disparities in heat exposure are huge.”

Heat waves can also make medications dangerous, Bernstein said in a June 27 Washington Post article. Drugs for common conditions such as blood pressure, asthma, allergies, and depression can impair the body’s ability to regulate in the heat. He advised staying vigilant about following the standard precautions to prevent heat sickness, including drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding going outside during the middle of the day.

Read the Popular Science article: The latest summer forecast calls for deadly heat waves

Read the Washington Post article: Risks for some medications rise as temperatures climb