The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is warning people in the Caribbean that they are at risk for heat strokes and even death as a result of the heat wave being experienced globally.
It said that the situation could worsen between July and August, “with adverse impact on human health” and is urging regional countries to be prepared, “due to the impact that this could have on peoples’ health, including the risk of death.
“Weather forecasts for North America, Central America and the Caribbean predict heat waves during the summer of 2019. This could increase drought-induced stress, lead to forest fires and have harmful effects on human health.”
PAHO said due to the situation, it has developed a guide to help regional countries formulate contingency plans to address heatwaves.
“This guide provides recommendations that the health sector and meteorological agencies can implement to prepare for and better respond to this threat, promote health, prevent the adverse effects of heatwaves, treat affected people and save lives.”
PAHO said the guide stresses that heatwave contingency plans should be able to determine the extent of the threat, with alert activation procedures, a description of roles and functions, and intra- and inter-agency coordination mechanisms.
It also highlights that countries should strengthen the epidemiological surveillance of heat-related morbidity and mortality, the capacity of health services (training of staff, improvements in the design of new hospitals, and equipping of existing hospitals in high-risk areas), and enhance the actions of local authorities, the media, and communities in terms of inter-agency response measures, prevention measures, and self-care.
PAHO warned that exposure to heat causes severe symptoms, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, a condition which causes faintness, as well as dry, warm skin, due to the inability of the body to control high temperatures.
It said the majority of heat-related deaths are due to the worsening of cardiopulmonary, renal, endocrine and psychiatric conditions. Other symptoms include edema in the lower limbs, heat rash on the neck, cramps, headache, irritability, lethargy and weakness.
PAHO said people with chronic diseases that take daily medications have a greater risk of complications and death during a heatwave, as do older people and children and that reactions to heat depend on each person’s ability to adapt, adding that serious effects can appear suddenly.
“This is why it is important to pay attention to the alerts and recommendations of local authorities,” PAHO said.