We all know that to beat the heat, we should drink a lot of water, stay in the shade or in air conditioned rooms, and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. However, there are other lesser known influences to consider when trying to find relief.
Let’s start with the science of cooling off.
There are four ways the body dissipates heat:
- Conduction is heat loss through contact with a cooler object.
- Convection is heat lost when relatively cool air passes over exposed skin.
- Radiation refers to direct release of heat into the environment.
- Evaporation through perspiration is the body’s most effective method of cooling under most circumstances.
Interesting fact: endurance athletes perspire at a rate of up to 1.5 liters per hour, and the body is capable of twice that.
Food for thought (pun intended!) — In hot weather, we often reach for ice cream, salad, and other cold foods. Yet, the hottest regions in the world tend to eat a spicy diet. Why? Because eating spicy food causes the body to sweat and the evaporation of sweat is the most effective cooling method. So as long as you drink plenty of water to remain hydrated, hot food can help keep you cool.
Your medicine could be making you hotter — Research from the American Academy of Family Physicians shows that some common medicines can profoundly affect the body’s ability to radiate heat. Cardiovascular drugs such as vasoconstrictors, diuretics and beta blockers are the most risky. Alcohol, amphetamines, anticholinergics, antihistamines, laxatives, benzodiazepines, stimulants, CCBs, neuroleptics, thyroid agonists, and tricyclic antidepressants are also potential culprits. If you’re worried about any drugs you or your loved ones are taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Your body may simply need time to adjust — The body’s temperature regulation system needs time to adjust. If you’re used to a relatively cold climate and you’re plunged into extremely warm weather, your body is more likely to have a hard time coping with the high heat. After a few weeks in a hot environment, the body adapts and gets more efficient, retaining salt and increasing sweat release for better cooling.
Beware of heat exhaustion and heatstroke!
No matter the cause, it is important to recognize when the heat is pushing your body to its limits.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, thirst, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, tiredness, and dark urine. Heat exhaustion is fairly common, and typically resolves quickly with hydration and cooling.
Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening medical emergency affecting the central nervous system (CNS). Heatstroke is diagnosed when the body’s internal temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit, and there is evidence of CNS dysfunction. Heatstroke can occur even in people who aren’t doing anything strenuous, simply because they’ve been in a high heat environment for a number of days.
A little awareness goes a long way. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and don’t over exert yourself in the heat of the day. Keep an eye on your children and neighbors, particularly babies, and elderly, chronically ill or overweight folks without air conditioning, and enjoy the summer heat!
Altasciences has a number of ongoing studies happening over the hot summer, click here to see the list of available studies and sign up today to enjoy overnight stays in one of our three air conditioned, state-of-the-art facilities.