Heat waves are defined as a period of extreme hot weather that usually lasts two or more days. To be considered a heat wave, the average historical temperature for a given area needs to be exceeded. When a high-pressure system is generated in the atmosphere over a region for several days, a heat wave is formed. It creates a mass of hot air which stays still for many days and weeks. This results in more heat getting trapped and convection currents being reduced. The high pressure acts as a barrier and forces the air mass to go to the earth’s surface, preventing heat from rising. The hot mass of air accumulates only heat and humid air and therefore causes high temperatures. Exposure to extreme heat and heat waves can cause significant public health problems.
As climate change escalates, heat waves will become more frequent, increasing the health risk to everyone, especially the elderly and young children. Heat can affect human health by overwhelming people’s physiological ability to manage heat, which harms the basic function of the human body to regulate temperature. Heat waves can affect the body temperature regulating mechanisms of sweating and breathing and can also lead to dehydration. Heat waves can also cause heat stroke, which is the most serious heat related illness. Heat stroke is a condition resulting from exposure to heat wherein the body becomes unable to cool itself, resulting in an increase of body temperature. According to the World Health Organization, “rapid rises in heat gain due to exposure to hotter than average conditions compromises the body’s ability to regulate temperature and can result in a cascade of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia.” Heat waves are a serious matter and should be taken as such, because they can lead to death. Individuals should take action in the meantime to help reduce the effects of heat waves. Doing simple things such as keeping the temperature in your home below 32 ° C during the daytime and 24 ° C at night can help. Opening windows to reduce the heat load can help with heat. In addition, keeping the body cool can also help: taking cool showers, drinking a lot of water, and wearing light, loose-fitting clothing are some examples. Heat waves are extremely dangerous and are becoming a bigger issue; therefore, we need to adapt and take action before more people become ill.