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From the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs
May 20, 1998

Heat-Related Illness During Extreme Weather Emergencies

JAMA. 1998;279(19):1514. doi:10.1001/jama.279.19.1514

THE "HEAT ISLAND" effect of large urban areas increases the risk of heat-related illnesses in city dwellers. Meteorologic conditions that increase exposure and inhibit heat dissipation include prolonged periods of ambient temperatures at or above body temperature, high humidity, increased barometric pressure, and reduced wind.

Perhaps the most important socioeconomic risk factor is lack of access to air-conditioning. Electric fans do not significantly reduce risk because convection requires that moving air currents be cooler than body temperature. People living in apartment buildings, in upper floors, or in flat-roofed buildings are at increased risk. Air conditioners may not be activated because of concern about utility bills. Fear of crime causes people to keep windows and doors locked or to resist leaving their homes to visit cooling centers. Social isolation is also a risk factor.

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