Heat Waves and Wellbeing: How to Keep Your Cool this June

June 20, 2017
Written by Patrick Glass
Heat Waves and Wellbeing

This week has been exceptionally scorching here in the Bay Area. Last Sunday broke records for the warmest temperatures measured at nine different locations, including at Oakland International Airport.

Meteorologists indicate that this blistering weather is part of a searing heat wave now traversing the American Southwest. Las Vegas and Phoenix could reach almost 120 degrees this week, leading to canceled flights and “excessive heat” warnings from local health departments. Tucson is expected to reach 110 degrees on seven consecutive days this week.

Fortunately, temperatures in the Bay are only expected to reach the 90s – or low 100s inland – for the remainder of the week – relatively mild compared with our southern neighbors.

Yet the sweltering conditions will certainly have adverse health effects for many East Bay residents, since consecutive hot days are such a rarity in Northern California.

In fact, several peer-reviewed studies have established a link between abnormally warm temperatures and increased hospitalizations for mental and behavioral health concerns. Other research suggests that heat waves are associated with an increase in violence, drug and alcohol use, and mood disruption.

One working hypothesis is that heat and humidity disrupt sleep, leading to poorer mental health overall.

Whatever the biological cause, it is clear that susceptible people should take steps to minimize the influence hot weather can have on their wellbeing. Easy precautions include:

  • Avoiding the outdoors during the hottest part of the day. Run errands and exercise during the early morning or late evening.
  • Wearing breathable, light-colored clothing that reflects heat.
  • Hanging out in public places with air conditioning, such as the mall, library, or movie theater.
  • Drinking more water than usual, and staying away from caffeinated and sugary drinks that can exacerbate dehydration.
  • Talking with medical professionals about how the heat may affect any medications you may be taking.

With climate change increasing the severity and frequency of heat waves in the near future, it’s essential to stay informed about how extreme weather can impact health and wellness.

Stay cool everyone!