"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

New report measures human and financial impacts of utmost heat

July 20, 2023 – As heat waves develop into more frequent, hospitals and emergency rooms across the U.S. will see 1000’s more cases of individuals passing out from heat stroke or developing potentially fatal heart problems, a brand new report warns.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have Conclusions after analyzing state-level data from Virginia on emergency room visits, hospital admissions, insurance claims and every day reports from 15 weather stations. They found that there have been a mean of 80 heat days each summer from 2016 to 2020. An additional 20 to 30 days of utmost heat per summer are expected by mid-century, the authors noted.

When researchers extrapolated their state-level findings to the nation, they estimated that heat events currently cause a further 235,000 emergency department visits and 56,000 hospitalizations for heat-related illnesses or complications of other problems exacerbated by extreme heat. The total cost of those heat-related health care costs is about $1 billion.

The United States spends greater than $4 trillion annually on healthcare, in accordance with a Government estimateof which about $1.3 trillion is spent on hospital care.

The report, entitled “The Health Costs of Extreme Heat,” addresses the next heat-related illnesses and complications:

  • Heat cramps, that are accompanied by muscle pain or cramps and heavy sweating during exercise
  • Heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body tries to keep up a standard temperature. It could also be accompanied by rapid heart rate, cold and clammy skin, nausea, dizziness, or headache.
  • Heat stroke, which occurs when the body temperature rises to about 40°C and the heart beat rate increases while sweat production decreases, sometimes resulting in confusion or fainting

“The growing threat of extreme heat requires that all levels of government and the private sector confront the fundamental crisis of climate change by taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing strategies that mitigate the impacts of extreme heat and the emergencies it causes,” the report's authors conclude. “These efforts are needed across the United States, but especially in poorer neighborhoods, communities of color, and other areas where vulnerability to severe weather and climate change is greatest.”