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Google enhances extreme heat warnings with new health tips feature

Man drinking water during heat wave

Millions across the globe can now access vital health and safety guidelines, a newly launched feature on Google search, developed in collaboration with the Global Heat Health Information Network.

During an observed extreme heat event, the service will display information including details on when a heat event is predicted to start and end, as well as tips on staying cool and healthy. The service is available to users of Google search in approximately 200 countries around the world, when they use the product to find information about the extreme heat their area is experiencing.

The simple, evidence-based tips on how to optimize personal heat resilience were developed by Network members representing the WMO-WHO Joint Office for Climate and Health, Global Disaster Preparedness Center and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and the University of Sydney Heat and Health Research Incubator.

“Extreme heat is a major threat, as we have seen repeatedly this year, especially in July which was the hottest month ever recorded. While the exact numbers of people killed or made seriously ill from heat is difficult to assess at the global level, we know that far too many people are impacted. Every heat death is preventable with simple and often low-cost interventions,” said Joy Shumake-Guillemot, Lead of the WMO-WHO Joint Office on Climate and Health.

“Knowing the signs of heat illness and having a plan to keep yourself and others safe in hot weather are the cornerstones of heat safety,” said Shumake-Guillemot, who is one of the pioneers of the Global Heat health Information Network, “Climate change means that we will experience more extreme heat more frequently. Urbanization and aging populations are increasing the risk. We need to be prepared.”

The Google initiative is in line with the international Early Warnings for All campaign to ensure that everyone has access to life-saving early warnings about dangerous weather. WMO is one of the leaders of Early Warnings for All, which embraces the private sector and seeks leverage the reach of IT companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM.

National meteorological and hydrological services are responsible for issuing authoritative warnings of high-impact weather and work closely with health authorities to inform heat-health action plans.

“Translating our research outcomes into changes in policy and practice is an essential part of the work that the Heat and Health Research Incubator does. This collaboration gives us an opportunity to place the findings of our research on optimal cooling strategies for the most vulnerable, in the hands of potentially hundreds of millions of people worldwide, at the time when they need it the most,” said Professor Ollie Jay, Director of the Heat and Health Incubator at the University of Sydney, Australia.

How does heat impact the body?

When exposed to hot conditions, the human body initiates a biological process to try to cool itself. This is called thermoregulation. Unfortunately, there are limits to how fast and how much the body can cool itself. Past those limits, the body becomes overwhelmed. Symptoms get worse, and heat exhaustion can advance to heat stroke – a life threatening medical emergency. A person experiencing heat stroke may have a rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, confusion and lose consciousness. Organs soon start to fail. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires rapid medical intervention to stop a cascade of organ failure and death. The process of thermoregulation itself can also place excessive strain on the heart and kidneys leading to a greater risk of a heart attack or kidney failure.

Who is impacted by heat?

Everyone is vulnerable to heat illness if exposed to high temperatures for long enough, including young and healthy people. Especially vulnerable populations include the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor workers, athletes and attendees of outdoor events (e.g. music festivals), those with disabilities or living alone, and the poor. Those experiencing poverty and homelessness – especially in dense urban areas – are disproportionately affected by heat, largely because they lack access to cooled spaces, hydration, information and healthcare.

Google Heat Safety Tips

Use Water Wisely 

  • Drink about 1 cup of water per hour and at least 2-3 litres per day
  • Wet your skin using a damp cloth, spray, or wet clothing

Keep yourself cool

  • When below 40˚C / 104˚F, fans cool the body. Do not use fans above 40˚C / 104˚F as the fans will heat the body.
  • If you are using AC, set the thermostat to 27˚C / 81˚F and add a room fan. This will make the room feel 4˚C cooler.
  • Seek shade and remember that it can be cooler outside in the shade

Stay safe

  • Extreme heat can be deadly. Avoid vigorous activity at peak heat hours. Seek medical attention if you or others feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous.
  • Check on elderly above 65 years, neighbors, family, and friends. Especially check on those with heart, lung, or kidney conditions, a disability, and living alone.

For more information please contact info@ghhin.org

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