Some of us love it, others hate it.. but what is it doing to our bodies?
Heat exposure causes the following illnesses:
Heat edema is swelling which generally occurs to those of us not accustomed to working or even living in hot conditions. Swelling is often most noticeable in the ankles. Recovery occurs after a day or two in a cool environment.
Heat rashes are tiny red spots on the skin which cause a prickling sensation during heat exposure. The spots are the result of inflammation caused when the ducts of sweat glands become plugged.
Heat cramps are sharp pains in the muscles that may occur alone or be combined with one of the other heat stress disorders. The cause is salt imbalance resulting from the failure to replace salt lost with sweat. Cramps most often occur when people drink large amounts of water without sufficient salt (electrolyte) replacement.
Heat exhaustion is caused by loss of body water and salt through excessive sweating. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include: heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, visual disturbances, intense thirst, nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, breathlessness, palpitations, tingling and numbness of the hands and feet. Recovery occurs after resting in a cool area and consuming cool salted drinks.
Heat syncope is heat-induced giddiness and fainting induced by temporarily insufficient flow of blood to the brain while a person is standing. It occurs mostly among unacclimatized people. It is caused by the loss of body fluids through sweating, and by lowered blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the legs. Recovery is rapid after rest in a cool area.
Heat stroke and hyperpyrexia (elevated body temperature) are the most serious types of heat illnesses. Signs of heat stroke include body temperature often greater than 41°C, and complete or partial loss of consciousness. The signs of heat hyperpyrexia are similar except that the skin remains moist. Sweating is not a good symptom of heat stress as there are two types of heat stroke – “classical” where there is little or no sweating (usually occurs in children, persons who are chronically ill, and the elderly), and “exertional” where body temperature rises because of strenuous exercise or work and sweating is usually present.
Heat stroke and heat hyperpyrexia require immediate first aid and medical attention. Delayed treatment may result in damage to the brain, kidneys and heart. Treatment may involve removal of the victim’s clothing and spraying the body with cold water. Fanning increases evaporation and further cools the body. Immersing the victim in cold water more efficiently cools the body but it can result in harmful overcooling which can interfere with vital brain functions so it must only be done under close medical supervision.
What can I do to prevent any of the above from happening?
DRINK WATER! So many of my clients say “I know I need to drink more water, but…” Just drink more water!
Stay cool, either by air conditioning or in water, do not exercise or make your dog run (even though you know he/she would). Check on neighbors, especially the elderly.
Wait. In a few short months we’ll all be complaining about how cold it is.
adapted from Canada.gc.ca