Fatal heat wave

By Alex P. Vidal

 “If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”— Steven Wright

NOW that health experts have warned many Filipinos could suffer from killer heat wave expected to prolong with El Nino until May, there’s a need to also prepare before many of us are caught unprepared.

National Weather Service has warned that “human bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation, by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, and — as the last extremity is reached — by panting, when blood is heated above 98.6 degrees.”  It warned further that the heart begins to pump more blood, blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased flow, and the bundles of tiny capillaries threading through the upper layers of skin are put into operation.

“The body’s blood is circulated closer to the skin’s surface, and excess heat drains off into the cooler atmosphere.” It added.  “At the same time, water diffuses through the skin as perspiration. The skin handles about 90 percent of the body’s heat dissipating function.”

Even in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has cautioned extreme heat events can be dangerous to health – even fatal.

These events result in increased hospital admissions for heat-related illness, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.


Extreme heat events can trigger a variety of heat stress conditions, such as heat stroke. We’ve been warned heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder.

CDCP said it occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. Body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down.  It warned further this condition can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Small children, the elderly, and certain other groups including people with chronic diseases, low-income populations, and outdoor workers have higher risk for heat-related illness.

Higher temperatures and respiratory problems are also linked. One reason, the CDCP said, is because higher temperatures contribute to the build-up of harmful air pollutants.

Many cities across the United States have reportedly seen large increases in death rates during heat waves.


LADY SPIDER. The black widow spider eats her mate during or after sex. It’s hard to be a lady spider.

ANTI-ARTHRITIS PILL. There’s no proof bee pollen works, but pumping up our intake of another supplement–vitamin D–may just slow the progression of osteoarthritis and put off the need for surgery, says Australian researchers.

The term taxicab is derived from two words–taximeter and cabriolet. The taximeter, an instrument invented by Wilhelm Bruhn in 1891, automatically recorded the distance traveled and/or the time consumed. This enabled the fare to be accurately measured. The cabriolet is a two-wheeled, one-horse carriage that was often rented.

ALL ABOUT SCIENCE. The sun is an incandescent ball of gases. Its mass is 1.8 x 1027 tons or 1.8 octillion tons (a mass 330,000 times as great as the Earth), according to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg.

RICE THAT WE EAT. People who eat at least a quarter-cup of rice per day consume 54 fewer daily calories. We generally pair rice with lower-cal foods like veggies and fish, theorize the Iowa State researchers, and we don’t slather it with butter or cheese. To gain the weight-losing benefit, eat it solo or as a side with lean stir-fries.

SPEED OF LIGHT. In round numbers, the speed of light in a vacuum is 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second. The exact figure is 186,282 miles (299,792.458 kilometers) per second.

STRATEGY. In addition to talking to our youngsters about the dangers of cigarettes, encourage them to play team sports and watch tobacco-free flicks. It could keep them from lighting up, according to a recent study. None-athletes ages 9 to 14 were twice as likely as sporty kids to become smokers later in life, and all kids who watched movies showing heavy smoking were about 20% more likely to get addicted.

HAPPINESS DRINK. A study involving more than 1,000 Japanese people age 70 or over found that those who drank at least four cups of green tea a day enjoyed better moods than those drinking a cup or less. The uplifting ingredient is theanine, the researchers believe.

BRUSHING OUR TEETH HELPS US RETAIN OUR MEMORY. Forget to floss, and we may soon have trouble recalling names, our grocery list, and the question we were asked five minutes ago.

THE MOON HAS A TAIL. A glowing 15,000 mile (24,000 km) tail of sodium atoms streams from the moon. The faint, orange glow of sodium cannot be seen by the naked eye but is detectable by instruments. Astronomers are not certain of the source of these sodium atoms.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)