The long-term health impacts caused by hot and humid conditions

Elyse Smith Image
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Long-term health implications of Houston's extreme hot weather
Houston experts warn of the long-term health effects of the extreme, hot weather conditions in southeast Texas.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston is known for its hot and humid summer months, and many people who have grown up in southeast Texas have become accustomed to them.

But it's important to remember that heat can be dangerous and deadly to everyone, and even long-term health implications can come from being exposed to extremely hot and humid conditions.

Tuesday afternoon, ABC13 Meteorologist Elyse Smith spoke to Dr. Majid Basit, the medical director for cardiology at Memorial Hermann Medical Group, about those long-term impacts.

"People don't realize that over time, if we continue to expose ourselves to any extreme weather, whether it's extreme cold, heat, humidity or exercise, over time it causes our body to become weaker and can lead to decreased lifespan," Basit said.

He specifically noted how dehydration can cause your immune system to weaken as well, leading to the potential for illness.

Those with a chronic illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, are also more at risk of developing a new condition if proper steps aren't taken to stay safe on hot days.

And those recommended steps?

  • Stay hydrated before, during, and after being outside.

  • Wear light-colored clothing.

  • Take breaks in the shade or air conditioning.
  • Avoid being outside during peak hours of the day between 3 and 6 p.m.

Basit also mentioned how important the heat index is and to take that into account instead of just the actual air temperature. That's because the heat index tells us what the combined impact of the heat and humidity will make it feel like to the body outside.

As meteorologists, a heat index is a tool we utilize whenever we expect very warm temperatures and high humidity as it shows what it will actually "feel like" outside due to both of those variables.

When a heat index reaches the triple digits, heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, become possible.

A Heat Advisory will be issued for heat index values above 108 in Houston, a threshold where a heat-related illness is more likely. An Excessive Heat Warning is then issued for extreme heat indices of 113 or greater.

As for recognizing those heat-related illnesses, these are the signs Basit said to keep a look out for:

"Heat exhaustion, you're going to feel hot. Your heart rate is going to be high; you may feel a little dizzy. When you're having a heat stroke, you'll feel cold and clammy," he said. "You won't be sweating. You stop sweating because you're so dehydrated. You become confused; you may even pass out. You may not even realize heat stroke because you are confused. That's why it's so important for others to recognize that and help you."

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