Humans are homeothermic; or in other words, “warm-blooded.” This means we can constantly regulate body temperature, notwithstanding external environmental factors. In the midst of extreme cold or heat, the human body works hard to maintain a 98.6˚F temperature. In extreme environments, though, it can be highly challenging to maintain this.
When the weather is too hot, frequent hydration is the only way to prevent dehydration. But dehydration is not the only threat humans have to face under the scorching heat. In this article, let’s find out how heat impacts your body and overall health.
How Do Humans Regulate Temperatures?
Your body relies on metabolism to produce body heat. After proper nourishment, cells break down glucose into carbon dioxide and water. This further generates adenosine triphosphate, which supplies energy to drive all bodily processes. Heat is produced during muscle contractions and when blood travels through the body.
In cold temperatures, your body will force out warm air towards the surrounding air. When it’s hot, humans sweat to keep cool. However, humidity resists the evaporation of sweat, making it harder to regulate body temperature in hot and humid weather.
When the proper application of external heat is applied, it can benefit the body by promoting detoxification and weight loss. This can be achieved by exercising regularly or maintaining proper self-care—like getting the health benefits of sauna, for example. However, extremely hot temperatures trigger an increased flow of blood to the skin. Hence, it’s important to regulate heat levels in the body to avoid adverse effects.
If exposed under the heat for prolonged periods, your body’s temperature-regulating mechanism can become overworked. Over time, it may cause mild, moderate, or severe dehydration. In some cases, it may even result in severe heat-related conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and death.
What Are The Most Common Heat Illnesses And Conditions?
The following heat-related conditions can be prevented with proper hydration, but it also pays to know the early symptoms of each condition so you can promptly seek the proper treatment:
- Restless and Irritability– this is especially true for infants and small children who don’t know how to properly express their feelings. Babies cry or get restless if they are uncomfortable with their surroundings, and that includes being in a hot environment.
- Lightheadedness, Confusion, or Dizziness- individuals may feel any or all of these symptoms as a result of minimal blood flow to the brain. Heat will trigger a dip in your blood pressure because of increased blood flow to the skin and blood pooling in the legs.
- Heat Rash- these areblister-like pimples that form when a person sweats too much, causing irritation. These red marks often develop along the jointed areas, as well as the neck and back.
- Heat Stress- thisoccurs when the body has difficulties regulating its internal temperature or getting rid of surplus heat. When left unaddressed, it can lead to more serious problems such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Rhabdomyolysis- this medical condition is attributed to heat stress and continuous physical exertion. In severe cases, it can lead to the breakdown and death of a muscle. Muscle cramps, abnormally dark urine, and fatigue are common signs of this condition.
- Heat Syncope- thiscauses fainting spells when a person stands too long or when standing up. Dehydration is the main trigger for this condition.
- Heat Cramps- likely an indication of heat exhaustion, its hallmark symptoms include muscle spasms and pain in the limbs and abdomen. Lack of electrolytes and water are the common culprits of heat cramps.
- Heat Exhaustion– a serious heat-related condition, heat exhaustion happens when a person fails to hydrate properly under the hot weather, causing excessive sweating and a sudden drop in blood volume. Symptoms include rapid heart rates, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, and fainting.
- Heat Stroke– this is the most serious heat-driven condition that requires immediate medical intervention. When a person’s core body temperature shoots up to 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit (or 40.5 °C), some of the body’s internal processes shut down; partially as a final resort to self-preservation. This is what is called a heat stroke.
The central nervous system could be severely affected, causing the person to experience severe mental problems such as dizziness, seizures, hallucinations. The kidneys, heart, and liver are also negatively affected. Needless to say, this is a life-threatening condition. When a person is suffering from a heat-induced condition, it’s best to move this individual to a cooler place. A cold bath or cold compress may also be given along with water to quench thirst.
3.What Are The Common Causes Of Heat-Related Health Conditions?
Heat-related health problems may be caused by a host of issues that include the following:
- Water And Salt Depletion: This isthe result of failure to replenish fluids and salt in the body. Salt is a form of electrolyte or mineral that carries a minimal electric charge that fuels some of the important processes in the body such as muscle contraction.
- Lack Of Proper Ventilation: Areas that don’t encourage proper airflow can exacerbate the impact of heat. An individual who’s confined in such places is likely to suffer from heat stress and other related conditions.
- Excessive Sun Exposure: The sun’s heat is said to be at its peak from 10 AM to 3 PM. Hence, it’s best to stay in your home or office during those times. If you need to go out, always take water, an umbrella, cap, or any cooling device with you.
4. Who Are At Risk Of Heat-Related Conditions?
Anyone exposed to extreme heat is at risk of developing heat-related illnesses. However, some individuals from the following categories are more susceptible:
- Seniors- elderly people who are over 65 years old are especially vulnerable to heat illnesses because their bodies are not capable of temperature acclimatization.
- Infants and Toddlers– Children have a high metabolic rate, which means they’re constantly producing body heat and are more likely affected by high temperatures.
- Pregnant and Nursing Women– Expecting and post-partum mothers have higher fluid requirements and are more prone to dehydration if they don’t drink enough water. In addition, hormonal changes can also drive higher body temperatures, making them very sensitive to heat.
- Persons with Pre-Existing Health Conditions– Specific health conditions make regulating body temperature more challenging. Persons with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, are a few of the conditions that may cause heat intolerance.
Heat can produce comfort and can even become an effective weight-loss method if applied properly and within a tolerable range. However, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can make one susceptible to serious and life-threatening conditions. Proper hydration is extremely important, not only in preventing heat-related illnesses but more so in facilitating the body’s major processes.