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New study finds significant increase in heat-related ER visits last year: 'Every year now we're doing this earlier and earlier'

"We know that the chances are it's going to be the same or worse."

"We know that the chances are it’s going to be the same or worse."

Photo Credit: iStock

In 2023, record-breaking heat caused an increase in the number of people visiting the emergency room with heat-related illnesses, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study detailed by The New York Times.

What happened?

A recent study by the CDC found that the rate of emergency room visits caused by heat illness increased significantly last year in many areas of the country compared to the previous five years.

The data, collected from an electronic surveillance program used by the government to detect the spread of diseases, showed nearly 120,000 heat-related emergency room visits. More than 90% of these occurred between May and September. The highest number of visits were recorded in the South, in states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

2023 broke a lot of heat records. According to information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2023 was the warmest year on Earth since global record-keeping began, and the U.S. experienced its 15th-hottest summer since record-keeping began. Some states felt the heat more than others — Louisiana recorded its hottest summer ever, and it was among the top 10 hottest summers in six other states, per Yale Climate Connections.

Climate scientists have been warning for decades about the dangers of a warming planet. Every year we are seeing more deadly heat-related events, such as the astonishing 125-degree heat index that occurred in Puerto Rico last June.

This is having an impact on health. Heat illness often creeps up on people gradually over a few hours and requires immediate attention to cool the body down. Without treatment, it can cause major damage to the body's organs. 

Early symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, dehydration, nausea, headaches, increased heart rate, and muscle spasms. 

Trying to keep cool as the temperatures soar is the best way to avoid harm. State officials are working to coordinate cooling shelters in some areas, while in others hospitals are already trying to ensure they are ready to cope with the number of heat illness patients they are expecting this year.  

Dr. Aneesh Narang, an emergency medicine specialist at Banner-University Medical Center in Phoenix, told the Times: "Every year now we're doing this earlier and earlier. We know that the chances are it's going to be the same or worse."

What can I do to help?

There are several ways we can all contribute to reducing the pollution that is causing global warming.

Using public transport or driving electric vehicles, reducing energy consumption, switching to renewable energies, and buying local produce are all steps that one can take to help cool the planet down.Voting for pro-climate candidates and taking local action can also ensure that our governments are working to reduce climate issues and help secure a more sustainable future for our planet.

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