Heatstroke has been known since biblical times. It is the most severe of the illnesses caused by high ambient temperature. Heat exhaustion and heat prostration are aggravated by depletion of bodily water or salt. During periods of sustained hot weather (heat waves), high rates of severe illness and death due to heatstroke may occur.
An estimated 1,265 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States during the summer of 1980, many of them from heatstroke. In July 1995, a heat wave killed more than 700 people in the Chicago area. Studies based on these types of statistics estimate that in Atlanta, for example, even a warming of about two degrees (F) would increase heat-related deaths from the present 78 per anum to anywhere from 96 to 247 people per year.
During heat wave emergencies, relief efforts should be preferentially directed toward the high-risk groups: those unable to care for themselves, the bedfast, alcoholics, those taking major tranquillizers, those on the higher floors of buildings, and those whose residences are not well shaded by trees and shrubs. If acquiring a home air conditioner is not economically feasible, persons at risk should attempt to spend more time in air-conditioned places. Strenuous activity should be reduced or rescheduled to the coolest part of the day. If no medical contraindications exist, those at risk should greatly increase their fluid intake. Patients being treated with antipsychotic drugs should be advised of their increased susceptibility to the heat.
Warmer temperatures may decrease the number of people who die each year from cold weather. However, in the United States, only 1000 people die from the cold each year, while twice that many die from the heat.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
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