Understanding Public Health Concerns That Result From Extreme Summers
If it seems like there are more natural disasters than there used to be that’s because there are. Climate change has not only resulted in higher temperatures but also caused weather systems and forest fire trends to behave significantly differently than what experts have observed in the past.
It’s an alarming development— particularly for people who just want to keep their family safe while enjoying summer weather. Is there a way to do that while in the grips of an extreme summer weather system?
In this article, we explore various risk factors and discuss what you can do to avoid them.
The Mosquito Problem
It’s not immediately obvious how rising global temperatures would result in more mosquitos. And yet the correlation speaks to the wider problem of climate change. All of us animals on earth are living in a delicate balance. Change one thing, and more change follows.
Mosquitos go into hibernation during the winter. When spring weather hits, they perk up, reproduce, and drive humans crazy.
Bad enough during ordinary circumstances. But as winters become increasingly milder, mosquitos are waking up earlier in the year than they used to. This increase in hot, humid temperatures is giving them more time and space to breed.
The result? Mosquito-born illness is on the rise. Hospitals are seeing outbreaks of Zika and West Nile in places that never used to experience them before. Of course, with advances in medicine and medical technology, mosquito-born illness is not as large of a threat as before, but it is still advised to exercise caution.
Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done about mosquitos. If you live in an area where mosquito cases are on the rise, it is a good idea to wear effective insect repellent any time you go outside.
You may also explore local resources to find out more about when mosquitos will be most active and present in your community.
Some people also find organic ways to deal with mosquitos on their property. For example, dragonflies. Dragonflies are natural predators of mosquitos. Growing a garden full of plants that attract dragonflies can significantly reduce your risk of mosquito bites. As an added bonus, it might help you cut back on other garden pests as well!
Higher Levels of UV Light
The sun naturally produces ultraviolet light. Your body actually benefits from moderate degrees of exposure. However, during extreme summers, the UV levels that you come into contact with may be way out of wack.
Not only can this create short-term problems, like sunburn, it can also result in long-term health issues, including skin cancer.
Many weather apps will now specifically warn when UV ray exposure is peaking in your community. When you see alerts it is always a good idea to apply strong sunscreen. Of course, sunscreen is also always recommended on days when you will be outside for a significant amount of time.
Vulnerable members of the population may decide to stay inside altogether on days when UV levels are truly out of control.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how climate change impacts heat. When you read an article saying that average temperatures have increased by two degrees in the last one hundred years, it doesn’t sound so bad.
There are two things to keep in mind: One, an average temperature difference of two degrees can have very real environmental consequences. That’s more than enough to reduce ice, shorten frost periods, and warm oceans.
Rising temperatures also just add up over time. While climate change may not be producing 120-degree temperatures on a day that would have been a balmy 74 degrees, it is producing more and more triple-digit temperature days each year.
Extreme heat is dangerous. It can produce strokes, fatigue, and even instances of fainting. In truly extreme temperatures, it is usually best to limit outdoor activities. If you have to be outside, drink plenty of water and take breaks as often as you can.
Hotter summers often result in more storms and forest fires. The latter issue is admittedly complex—forests are supposed to catch on fire from time to time. Fires help maintain biodiversity and create new animal habitats.
However, they also pose a significant risk to human safety and ultimately do more harm than good when they exceed historical levels.
In the Summer of 2023, fires all the way in Canada were producing dangerous air quality in the Midwest. There was a day in June when Chicago had the lowest air quality on the planet because of smoke from Ontario.
If you live in an area with poor air quality, or other climate-induced environmental risks, it is usually best to follow locally posted instructions. Your community health organizations should have guidelines in place designed to help you safely ride out the storm.
Living with a New Normal
Unfortunately, climate change and the extreme weather conditions it produces aren’t going anywhere. While activists do their part to slow down global warming, extreme weather patterns may continue to be part of our “new normal.”
Pay attention to what public health professionals and administrators are saying in your community, and follow their recommendations.
Summer can still be enjoyed safely. With a little bit of extra planning and some careful precautions, you can protect yourself from risk and still enjoy the outdoor activities you love.