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article imageHeatwave causing deaths and severe sunburn in the UK

By Anne Sewell     Jul 21, 2013 in Health
In the first prolonged heatwave since 2006, England is sweltering and is expected to do so for several more days. Around 650-760 people have reportedly died as a result and others are suffering severe sunburn.
The temperature in and around the UK is forecast to be around 33C (91F) next week, with 35C (95F) possible in some places. London reached a 2013 high of 32.2C (89F) on Wednesday.
While these temperatures don't sound particularly high, up to 760 people have reportedly died as a result of the heat.
As a comparison, Las Vegas experienced temperatures of 47C (117F) last week during a heat wave which blistered the Southwest and part of California. In fact the heat was so bad, aviation officials in Phoenix had to ground several planes because it was just too hot to fly. And yet, few fatalities were recorded as a result of the extreme heat.
New York has been experiencing 37C (100F) temperatures, but again few fatalities.
So why is the UK experiencing so many deaths? This is apparently due to the lack of air conditioning in the country.
The BBC reckons that in the UK an average 0.5 percent of homes have air conditioning, unlike the US where 87 percent of homes are cooled. In fact, they are current offering eight low-tech ways of keeping cool during the heatwave, including eating a hot curry!
The current temperatures in the UK are so unusual, with the average high in July being normally around 22C (73F), and thus locals don't take any precautions against the effects of extreme heat.
"Other countries are used to very hot summers, we are not ready for this," said UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. "Thirty-five degrees [95 degrees Fahrenheit] is pretty brutal and you need to be careful, particularly if you're frail."
Along with the dangers of heat, sunburn has been a huge problem in the last week or so with 10 children, including a four-week-old baby, admitted to a single hospital in London for severe sunburns. One child suffered sunburn to 4 percent of his or her body surface area.
Other accident and emergency wards in the UK saw around 457,459 people needing medical assistance in heat-related cases.
Also, with people just trying to keep cool, there have reportedly been an unusually high number of drownings, with Tuesday last week seeing four people dead from swimming in rivers, lakes and quarries across the country. So far, a total of 15 people have drowned trying to beat the heat.
Wildfires are also popping up with the unusually high temperatures and firefighters in the UK have had to battle twice the number of fires compared to 2012. The Express says this could likely get worse stating that next week is set to hit a near-record high of 38C (100F).
The NHS is urging people to consider staying out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, to avoid drinking tea, coffee or alcohol and to take cool showers or baths to cool down.
According to Graham Bickler, of the Health Protection Agency, "There is considerable evidence that heatwaves are dangerous and can kill."
"In the 2003 heatwave there were 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths in England. Across Europe, there were round 30,000 excess deaths."
“Most of the information is common sense," Bickler said. "It's not rocket science but it can have a dramatic effect."
On a lighter note, an old song, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" by Noel Coward, comes to mind this summer as the country battles with the heat and is included above.
More about United Kingdom, England, Heatwave, Sunburn, Heat
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