Growing temperatures a cause for concern

Researchers have cautioned the public to be careful in the heat. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

Researchers have cautioned the public to be careful in the heat. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jan 26, 2023


Cape Town - Be careful in the heat, researchers have cautioned, as infants, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, pregnant women, outdoor workers, and those who are on chronic medications were identified as the people most vulnerable to deaths as a result of exposure to extreme heat.

This is according to research conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and its partners.

The research draws a correlation between the way in which the biological, environmental, medical, socio-behavioural and geographical effects of extreme heat exposure have had an adverse impact on morbidity and mortality in the most vulnerable communities in Africa.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of a heatwave, they are typically described as a consecutive period of hot days with temperatures above a given threshold.

The SAMRC explains that heat affects the human body by reducing its ability to regulate its temperature and keep cool by sweating.

“As the body becomes too hot, a person may experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even hyperthermia. Irritability, lack of concentration, headaches and loss of ability to do skilled tasks or heavy work.”

Drawn from evidence from 1992 to 2019, and published in 2022, the research aimed to provide a synthesis of Africa-informed evidence on the effects of extreme heat on morbidity and mortality on the continent.

According to the study, preparedness and resilience are key as South African temperatures are expected to become warmer than the projected global average temperature.

Some parts of the country will experience drying and other parts will become wetter, and there aren’t any certainties as to how much exactly and where temperatures will reach extremes such as heat waves.

“In light of climate threats and climate-related disaster risks facing South Africa, an all-encompassing approach, including education campaigns, climate-proofed housing, access to basic services, and financial considerations that will help support resilient coping among South Africans is urgently required,” the study noted.

Cape Times