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Study uncovers troubling factor 'strongly related' to increased deaths in hospital patients: 'Could exacerbate the burden of inpatient mortality'

"[This factor] accounted for 16% and 22.1% of overall fatal hospitalizations."

"[This factor] accounted for 16% and 22.1% of overall fatal hospitalizations."

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High heat in Spain is "strongly related" to deaths among people being treated in the hospital for respiratory diseases, according to research published in The Lancet. 

What's happening? 

Our world has warmed about two degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times, starting in 1850. If that reading hits 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, experts fear we could suffer worst-case scenarios, including more extreme weather, sea level changes, and worsening health problems

The Lancet report indicated that the latter concern may already be a factor. Experts studied deaths from respiratory illnesses in Madrid and Barcelona between 2006 and 2019. The number of people admitted to the hospital was higher during the cold season, as expected. 

However, "the maximum incidence of inpatient mortality occurred during the summer and was strongly associated with high temperatures," per a News Medical Life Sciences summary of the research. 

Spain's temperatures are breaking records, even during the cold season. Reuters reported that December readings "smashed" previous highs, reaching 86 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. 

Why is it important?

The warm December delayed Spain's ski season, but that might be the least of the concerns when it comes to the weather. High temperatures during the study period "accounted for 16% and 22.1% of overall fatal hospitalizations from respiratory diseases in Madrid and Barcelona, respectively," per the News Medical research summary. 

The heat was fast-acting, with fatal outcomes happening within three days of when the mercury rose, the report added

"This suggests that the increase in acute respiratory outcomes during heat is more related to the aggravation of chronic and infectious respiratory diseases than to the spread of new respiratory infections, which usually take several days to cause symptoms," Inserm and ISGlobal researcher Hicham Achebak, one of the authors, said in the News Medical report

What can be done to help?

The researchers suggest that hospital officials take into account high temperatures — a product of our overheating planet — as part of facility policies. 

"Unless effective adaptation measures are taken in hospital facilities, climate warming could exacerbate the burden of inpatient mortality from respiratory diseases during the warm season," Achebak said in News Medical.  

All of us can take steps to reduce planet-warming air pollution. Reusing and recycling your old stuff and making easy changes to your utility plan — as simple as pulling a few plugs — could cut back on smog while saving you tens of thousands of dollars during the next decade. 

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