Sufficient Use of Air Conditioners Crucial on Hot Summer Days

In recent years, the annual number of people who are transported by ambulance due to heat stroke has ranged from 40,000 to over 50,000, with more than 1,000 deaths. It needs to be recognized that heat stroke poses a more serious threat than natural disasters and has a higher death toll.

Hot, humid days with high temperatures are continuing throughout the Japanese archipelago.

Temperatures usually rise even higher after the rainy season ends. Vigilance is especially important at this time.

In central Tokyo, there have been extremely hot days with maximum temperatures of 35 C or higher, and “heat stroke alerts” have been issued in many areas. Many people must be feeling this unusual heat, which can be described as brutal.

Many may think of heat stroke as people collapsing while exercising or working outdoors under the blazing sun. In reality, however, the majority of deaths from heat stroke occur among the elderly at home.

In a breakdown of heat stroke deaths by age in the 23 wards of Tokyo last summer, more than 80% were elderly people. In addition, 90% of those who died indoors were not using air-conditioning.

Due in part to the effects of global warming, summer heat is not comparable to that in the past. Careless decisions such as “I can get by with an electric fan” must be avoided, and air-conditioning should be used even during the night.

People may hesitate to use air conditioners as a result of the government’s call to save power in the areas served by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. due to the tight supply and demand for electricity. Another factor is rising electricity bills resulting from the use of air conditioners. However, this is a life-threatening issue. Power should be conserved to a reasonable extent, such as with lighting.

When the temperature rises and the human body dehydrates, its ability to control body temperature is compromised, resulting in heat stroke. Basic prevention measures are to cool the body and drink water frequently.

Elderly people tend to be less sensitive to hot temperatures and less likely to notice their thirst. On dangerous days, it is also important for relatives and neighbors to call on elderly people to use air-conditioning.

This summer, many schools are likely to fully resume club and outdoor activities that were restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are also vulnerable to heat stroke due to their poor ability to control their body temperature. On hot days, it is necessary to rethink the details of activities and take other measures as well.

Starting next year, the government will reportedly issue a “special heat stroke alert” when extremely high temperatures that exceed the level for the current heat stroke alerts are expected. The government plans to designate public facilities and private commercial facilities as “cooling shelters” and open them to people.

Some local governments have set up their own shelters to escape the heat. This summer is expected to be extremely hot. Local governments must consider such measures as establishing rest areas for residents and providing them with drinking water, without waiting for the central government program to start.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2023)