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Thousands are dying from heatstroke, yet major events have not changed

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The sights of acute heat stress are beginning to resemble one another at major events throughout the globe. Older males lying down with their eyes closed, shirts undone. Care tents brimming with unconscious people. And rows upon rows of devout people, seeking solace in music, religion, sports, or voting booths, while sweating in brief moments of shade.

The results have been disastrous. At least 1,300 people perished during this year’s hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, as temperatures rose beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And in many respects, that high cost was only the most recent indication that climate change-related heat waves and crowd control are headed straight toward conflict.

In India, several poll workers lost their lives while performing their duties. Boy Scouts traveling to South Korea for a jubilee last summer had heat-related illnesses, as did attendees of music festivals in Australia, Europe, and North America.

There is still a risky cultural lag, even though heat kills more people than any other extreme weather event nowadays. Many major event planners and participants are still lagging behind the climate change wave, failing to recognize how global warming has increased the risk to summer crowds.

“We’re going to have to adapt as the warm seasons get longer and as the heat waves come earlier,” said Benjamin Zaitchik, a Johns Hopkins University climate scientist who specializes in studying climatic events that harm human health. Infrastructural, emergency management, and social schedules, in addition to individual conduct, need to “really acknowledge this new reality.”

Shade, water stations, white sidewalks painted to reflect heat, and emergency medical services to treat extreme instances of heatstroke are just a few of the numerous low-tech techniques to avoid illness and death. Certain creative and trendy cities, such as Singapore, have built outdoor and indoor public areas. Bus stations and other places where people might have to wait for a while now have air conditioning.

Teaching everyone about the dangers of heat, including those who are used to living in hot climates, maybe the most difficult but also the easiest solution of them all. They frequently don’t know about the early signs of heat stress or how harmful high temperatures may be for those who already have health issues, such as hypertension or renal illness. Even medications used to treat allergies or asthma, such as anticholinergic agents, might exacerbate symptoms by limiting sweating.

Associate professor Tarik Benmarhnia of the University of California, San Diego, and an expert in environmental science stated, “Heat is a very, very complex and sneaky killer.” “It is hushed.”

In accordance with Presumptions Based on Religious Belief

Among all events, a religious journey might be the most challenging. During religious rites, devotees of several religions, including Christians in the Philippines, Hindus in India, and Muslims in Saudi Arabia, have perished from heatstroke in recent years.

The hajj, however, maybe the riskiest of them. The Arabian Peninsula is getting hotter by the day and is heated up quickly at night, depriving people of their natural cooling-off periods. Mecca’s sacred city experiences extreme heat during the five- or six-day Hajj.

The lunar cycle also determines the hajj calendar, thus the pilgrimage may take place during the warmest periods of the year, as it did this year. Additionally, pilgrims are more susceptible to the negative effects of extreme heat since they are often older than other groups.

Benmarhnia trembled upon learning of the hajj fatalities this year. He remarked over the phone on Monday, “I thought this could have happened to my grandmother.” He had covered the cost of her 2019 trip to Mecca. Thankfully, he said, she made a smaller journey in April, when it was cooler, even though she was 75 years old. He recommended that specialists in heat swiftly work with religious leaders to develop adaption techniques in light of this year’s mortality toll.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has launched awareness campaigns encouraging individuals to utilize umbrellas and remain hydrated. Water stations and field hospitals are established by officials. Thousands of paramedics were sent out. For a surge of millions, many of whom circumvented governmental limits intended to restrict the size of the throng, it was not quite enough. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has come under fire for how it handled the pilgrimage in the wake of the killings.

This year’s election in India showed that far greater awareness of the risks associated with excessive heat is required, especially in areas where people consider themselves to be adapted to the heat. Disaster relief officials in the state of Bihar report that by the end of May, at least 14 individuals had perished in the state, at least 10 of them were poll workers. In June, there was a period when about 100 deaths occurred in Odisha within 72 hours, with the cause considered to be heat-related.

India’s health officials have to get ready. Patients in hospitals in Delhi were instantly submerged in an ice-filled submersion tank to lower their body temperatures in heatstroke units. Critical patients were put on slabs of ice and given cold fluid injections right away in a ward that had ventilators, an ice-making refrigerator, and ice boxes.

However, in many places, heat waves and election results peaked at the same time. For example, in the 3 million-person Aurangabad region of Bihar, late May temperatures reached a miserable 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit).

On one especially horrible day, sixty victims were admitted for heatstroke, and the top medical officer of a government hospital, Ravi Bhushan Srivastava, was on his way to evaluate the daily post-mortem reports. “A minimum of 35 to 40 were in poor health,” he stated. “They were either breathing heavily and had extremely hot bodies, or they were unconscious or in an altered state of consciousness.” “Throughout my entire career, I have never seen patients with heatstroke symptoms in such a large number and with such intensity,” he continued.

The huge crowds that attend election rallies can make them more dangerous. However, there are also many workable answers. Participants should be able to view local temperatures in real-time together with danger levels indicated by color, according to Aditya Valiathan Pillai, an adaptation specialist with the Sustainable Futures Collaborative, a research group located in Delhi. It is possible to put up cooling centers, water stations, and shade. Finally, public organizations ought to go above and above in issuing heat-related alerts. It is feasible to establish advance awareness since we now have quite precise heat wave forecasts up to five days in advance, according to Pillai.

Athletic events have already adapted to the risks associated with high temperatures. During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when temperatures reached 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit due to a combination of heat, humidity, and sun exposure, water breaks were implemented for players. Decisions were made to reschedule the 2022 World Cup from the summer to November and December when temperatures will be lower.

It appears as though balance is what the Olympics in Paris are aiming for. There will be water stations for attendees at certain events, like as the marathon, which starts earlier in the day.

Madeleine Orr, an author of the book “Warming Up: How Climate Change Is Changing Sport,” and a professor at the University of Toronto, stated that “mega-events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup have a duty of care to all who attend.” She said, “We’re talking about cooling and hydration breaks, chances for officials and athletes to use cooling towels, some shade, or misting fans, and medical personnel on call to step in should somebody need extra care.”

Maybe it will do for now. According to several analysts, further drastic changes could be necessary. It may be necessary to change the Summer Olympics to the Autumn Olympics. In a similar vein, international tennis events and Indian elections may be moved to colder months. Weather-related school holidays may need to be rescheduled. Painting houses throughout the summer might lead to spring employment.

People were already starting to adjust in tiny ways, according to Tasmanian climate scientist David Bowman, whose post advocating for the end of the summer school break during Australia’s 2020 bushfires garnered a lot of attention online. Road workers are working longer hours at night, shorts are becoming a more acceptable work attire, and umbrellas are becoming stylish additions for shade. Major events may need to alter even more as a result of climate change.

He claimed, “All these catastrophes are like a cultural climate change price signal.” “Yes, we can be obstinate and continue despite the changing climate, but ultimately the climate will prevail.”

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