In 2020, a team of researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research found evidence to suggest that if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, future heat waves could kill millions of people around the world. In their article, the experts described how they compared heat-related deaths in various countries during past heat waves to projected future temperatures to gain more information on possible deaths in the future. The scenario is quite disturbing.
But how can heat kill us?
First, keep in mind that extreme heat can harm anyone of any age, Although the elderly, people with chronic diseases, those from low-income families, workers who work outdoors and athletes who compete in extreme heat are among those most at risk.
Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s heat regulation system is overwhelmed by external heat, causing a person’s internal temperature to rise. Our core body temperature is about 37 ° C and, under normal health conditions, our bodies can generally withstand variations of about 3.5 ° C. However, if we pass this threshold, the organism begins to show signs of distress. The body sweats to stay cool, so the problem begins when we become dehydrated or when the external mix of heat and humidity becomes too high.
In this stage, sweat is not enough. As the blood moves towards the skin, it becomes red in an attempt to transfer heat away from the core. As salt stores decrease, muscles contract, and as the body activates an immune response, organs begin to swell. At this point it is possible to have hallucinations and confused ideas. Then vomiting, seizures, and eventually death can ensue as a result of a heart attack or organ failure.