Published Jul 25, 2023

How extreme heat affects your health (and what to do about it)

Two laughing young African female friends holding on to a float while swimming together in the ocean on a sunny day.
Published Jul 25, 2023

June was officially declared the hottest June on record. July is projected to hit similar ranks, too. So on top of celebrating Disability Pride Month with some excellent Checkup reads, we wanna make sure you know the sneaky ways extreme heat can exacerbate preexisting conditions, mental health + pet health. Grab a cool drink + a notepad. You can keep cool this summer. We’re here to help.

  • The Checkup: cool + beautiful bodies
  • Hot Topic: care + calm + cuddles 
  • Healthcare: ↑ Covid-19 + ER + deaths

The Checkup

Heat-triggering conditions

A little white girl with Down Syndrome wearing a bathing suit and goggles has some summer fun in the backyard with a sprinkler

CNET tracks how extreme heat can exacerbate various conditions. Other than staying extra hydrated, here’s the gist of their detailed suggestions.

  • Autoimmune illnesses. High temperatures, UV light + humidity can trigger the immune response + exacerbate symptoms. Stay as cool as possible + avoid sudden temperature shifts.
  • Asthma + COPD. Heat can worsen lung + airway obstruction. Limit physical activity outside + bring medications (like inhalers) everywhere. 
  • Diabetes. Diabetes can affect how sweat glands cool the body + sunburn can raise blood sugar levels. Keep covered (feet, too), avoid dehydrating caffeine + alcohol and keep insulin cool.
  • Eczema, rosacea + acne. Dehydration, sweating + sunlight can trigger flares. Wear loose clothing, use fragrance-free products, shower in cool water, slather on the SPF + keep skin moisturized!
  • Heart conditions. Heat can strain the heart. And some heart meds affect the body's cooling response. Limit activities that increase blood pressure + take advantage of hydrating summer produce.
  • Pregnancy. Higher heat (+ air pollution) can increase early delivery risk. Do everything you can to keep cool, hydrated and healthfully fed.

Dr. B treats several of the above heat-exacerbated conditions with a $15 online health assessment. Want to get prescription medication online?

Learn more about our affordable online health services

Heat + mental health

Curvy white woman dressed in a bikini sunbathes inside on a windowsill while their toddler looks out the window.

As reported in ABC, extremely hot weather can increase acts of violence, exacerbate mental health issues + increase suicide rates. That's because symptoms of heat exhaustion include diminished cognitive function—like our ability to communicate + think clearly. We’re also more likely to have insomnia, which leaves us groggy + less able to make quick decisions—so traffic + other accidents increase, too.

People with established mental health conditions are at increased risk for worsened symptoms—and some medications for mental illness disrupt the body’s ability to cool itself. Those of lower socioeconomic status are also at high risk of heat exposure, as it may be not possible to prioritize air conditioning or keeping cool. Otherwise, heat-related mental health issues affect all demographics.

So—again—stay on top of cooling self-care.

Pets feel the burn, too!

A white woman plays with water and her pet dog in the hot summer . She is in a swimsuit hosing down a jumping dog in the backyard of a country house.

NPR shares that pets also experience heat-related illness. This is especially true for older pets + those with dark/thick fur or breathing issues (like pugs).

Signs of heat stroke in pets include anxiety, restlessness, excessive drooling/panting, vomiting, diarrhea, unsteadiness and (in cats) open-mouthed breathing. So keep pets hydrated + never leave them in a car. (Organ failure happens fast.) Walk during cooler hours + first feel the pavement with the back of your hand. If too hot, it can burn paws! Pets can sunburn, so shaving them (to help them cool) can backfire. This is especially true for pets with a double coat (which helps them cool down.)

It can help to spray pets with a hose or let them play in a kiddie pool. But dog houses = hot houses.

Read the article for more tips + to-do’s.

Healthcare 411

COVID-19 metrics see first increase since January (USNews). Test positivity, wastewater levels + emergency department visits are increasing + hospitalizations have stopped declining. New Omicron variants XBB.2.3 and EG.5. are also on the uptick. This report details the current upward trend.

From rapid cooling body bags to ‘prescriptions’ for AC, doctors prepare for a future of extreme heat (StatNews). If you head to the ER with a heat-related illness, they may put you in an ice-packed body bag! That’s one way emergency physicians treat heat stroke—an area of ER care increasing every decade.

US mortality rates far higher than peer nations, leading to millions of "Missing Americans" (News Medical). Over 1 million Americans die unnecessarily yearly—more than any other wealthy nation. The gap has never been this large. Why? United States citizens have more gun violence, food insecurity + opioid use plus lower vaccination rates + fewer masking protocols.

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