Complaining about the weather is about as American as it gets. You can always connect with a stranger on whether it’s too hot, cold, humid, dry, rainy, snowy or anything in between. We often forgot while shooting the breeze that those extra hot days can be more than just a frustration–they’re often quite deadly.

In the US, plenty of people are hospitalized or even die from heat each year. As you can guess, these are often people who are unable to afford things like central air or work jobs that require them to be out in the high temps.

We’ll be taking a look at the impacts of heat waves and donating to the Salvation Army, an organization that sets up heat relief stations across the country and organizes mobile hydration units to help people affected.

Heat Kills

It’s not always straightforward trying to figure out how many people heat waves kill each year in the US. Heat can cause a number of health issues–particularly heart disease. Researchers estimate it’s between 13,000 and 20,000 deaths a year. It’s the deadliest weather event, killing more than tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.

The people most at risk of dying in a heat wave are both those most vulnerable to health problems–like the elderly–as well as those unable to afford things like central air conditioning or the energy to run it.

Lower Income During Higher Heat

If you were standing in the lowest income neighborhood in your city, did you know that you may very well be experiencing even higher temperatures than the ritzy neighborhood in that same city?

Researchers took a look at the data and found that temperatures were up to 7 degrees higher in low income neighborhoods. That’s outside, not inside. It’s likely due to a few things, including where the wealthy choose to build their homes and whether there’s mostly trees or mostly asphalt and cement.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether lower income households can afford to cool their homes. In hotter areas, summer electricity bills can be several times larger than normal. It makes them difficult to budget for, even if your apartment or house has the right equipment in place.

How to Help

There are many options locally for every one of us to help out. Many organizations mobilize things like heat relief stations with shade, water and medical care that you can donate water bottles, money or time to. There are also local utility bill relief programs that you may be able to donate to in your area.