What Is More Deadly in the U.S.: Hot Weather or Cold?
THURSDAY August 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Extreme weather days have been on the rise around the world since the advent of global warming. But a new U.S. study finds that cold weather is responsible for most of the temperature-related deaths in Illinois.
Researchers analyzed data on heat and cold injuries that required a hospital visit in the state between 2011 and 2018. They identified about 24,000 cases each related to cold and heat.
Of these, there were 1,935 cold-related deaths and 70 heat-related deaths. Cold caused 94% of temperature-related deaths, although hypothermia (a drop in the body’s core temperature) was only responsible for 27% of temperature-related hospital visits.
The study from the University of Illinois at Chicago was recently published in the journal Environmental research.
“With the decrease in the number of cold days over the past few decades, we are seeing even more deaths from cold weather as opposed to hot weather,” said study author Lee Friedman, associate professor of science. environment and occupational health.
He said this was in part due to the body’s lower ability to regulate its temperature once hypothermia sets in. But fewer days of cold weather overall also helps because people don’t have time to acclimatize when those more rare cold days occur, Friedman said.
Even mildly cool temperatures can trigger hypothermia, which is a drop in body temperature from 98.7 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
When people develop hypothermia, their organs and systems begin to shut down in an effort to preserve the brain. Once started, this process can be difficult to master.
People more regularly exposed to lower temperatures are better able to resist hypothermia, as this study shows.
“People who were homeless in the records we looked at were less likely to die from temperature-related injuries,” Friedman said in a college press release. “Because they are more exposed to the outdoors, they acclimatize better to heat and cold.”
In general, people are better able to avoid heat-related issues by going somewhere cooler or by staying hydrated, Friedman said.
“Currently, the public health community focuses almost exclusively on heat injuries. Our data shows that better awareness and education are needed regarding the risk of cold injuries, especially since there are fewer cold days, but more severe, leaving less chance of injury. ‘acclimatization, which can be protective against hypothermia, ”he concluded.
The researchers said the study shows how public health messages about weather should be tailored to different climatic zones in the United States.
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