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Lung disease: higher mortality during heat waves

Heat waves are becoming more common in summer and have health-related consequences. In patients with chronic lung disease, the risk of dying increases by up to 43%, according to an original article by Christian Witt and colleagues in the current issue of Deutsches Ă„rzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 878-83). The probability that a patient with chronic lung disease develops additional symptoms increases by some 9% during a heat wave.

In the scientists’ view, this is due to a combination of heat stress and noxious/toxic substances, such as greenhouse gases, fine particle dust, or ozone. The possible outcome: acute and chronic lung damage. In patients with lung disease, each hot day brings clear risks: the daily probability of dying from the consequences of the high temperature increases by up to 3.4%-and that is the case for each degree Celsius that the climate rises above the mean summer temperature. The authors recommend preventive measures for at-risk patients: these include heat avoidance, for example by means of air-conditioned hospitals; adapted lifestyles; innovative patient management, for example by means of telemonitoring; and climate-adapted medication therapy.