Temperature extremes especially affect the poor, children, elderly, and sick. The poor and sick live in structures that are not heated properly or air-conditioned, and in areas where there are high levels of crime and therefore windows and doors are kept closed and locked. This sharply decreases the amount of ventilation and allows the heat within structures to rise to dangerous levels. When it is very cold and there is insufficient heat, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as pneumonia. Children are at very high risk from extreme weather conditions. When it is very cold, their resistance is lowered and they are more prone to upper respiratory diseases. When it is very hot, they breathe more rapidly for longer periods of time outdoor air including air pollutants. Older people have a significant problem since the individual’s ability to regulate body temperature and adapt physiologically to the cold or heat decreases with age. In addition, older people are more prone to chronic disease and may be using medications which enhance cold or heat problems. All individuals are more vulnerable to infectious disease when their resistance is lowered by temperature extremes.
Best Practices for Protecting People during Temperature Extremes
• Provide air-conditioned facilities such as shopping malls, public libraries, or specially cooled shelters during periods of extreme heat especially for the elderly, those with chronic conditions, infants, and children.
- • Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages to keep well hydrated.
- • Provide heated buildings for those subjected to extreme cold conditions, especially for the elderly, those with chronic conditions, infants, and children and those who have been exposed to substantial cold conditions.
- • Drink warm non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.
- • Avoid strenuous exercise in severe cold and dress appropriately in layers of clothing.
- • Be aware of individuals who may not be able to take care of themselves in severe heat and extreme cold and provide necessary services to remove them to appropriate shelters.