Recent studies have shown that temperatures are rising at an alarming rate. As the climate changes, the Earth continues to heat up. Extreme heat brings about a whole slew of dangerous situations and circumstances.
A recent 20-year study on extreme temperatures showed that more than 500 million people have died due to both severe heat and cold conditions.
As extreme heat takes over the world, it may be prudent to learn about the various effects it can have on the human body. Understanding the warning signs is essential in preventing potential negative effects and even fatalities.
What is Extreme Heat?
Defining Intense Heat
There are many ways to describe this type of heat. In general, this type of heat is used when a period of high temperatures surpasses the average temperature range for a certain area.
The National Weather Service (NWS) categorises it as a long-duration event usually lasting for two or more days. Temperatures during this period can be 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the hottest temperatures typically experienced in an area.
For example, if the hottest temperature ever recorded in Boston, Massachusetts was 103 degrees Fahrenheit, then intense heat would be defined as any period of time where the temperature was 113 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
What Are the Negative Effects of Extreme Heat?
Extreme heat can have a number of different effects on the human body. It is important to be aware of these so that you can take the necessary precautions to avoid them.
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water. This can happen when you sweat excessively or if you don’t drink enough fluids.
If you don’t replace the fluids that you’ve lost, it can lead to more serious problems like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke.
Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, dark urine, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids and seek shade or air conditioning.
Following from the previous effect, heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that can occur due to dehydration. They are usually experienced in the legs and abdomen.
Heat cramps are often a sign that you are dehydrated and need to replace lost fluids. The best way to treat heat cramps is to drink clear fluids like water or sports drinks, and rest in a cool place.
These first two negative effects show the domino-like burn consequences that intense heat can have on people.
Heat exhaustion is a more serious condition that can occur when your body temperature gets too high. This can happen when you are dehydrated or if you’ve been exposed to intense heat for a long period of time.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, extreme thirst, headaches, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, and a rapid pulse. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
If left unchecked, heat exhaustion can worsen to heatstroke, which is the most severe – and in some cases fatal – effect of intense heat.
Heat stroke is the most serious condition that can occur due to high heat. It happens when your body temperature gets so high that it starts to damage your brain and other organs.
Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, hot red skin that is dry or sweaty, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, confusion, and fainting.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated with the proper first aid practices.
Exposure to intense heat has also been linked to an increased risk of preterm births. A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that women who were exposed to this level of heat during their pregnancy were more likely to give birth prematurely.
The study found that the risk was highest during the first trimester of pregnancy, but it remained elevated throughout the entire pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and are exposed to very high temperatures, it’s important to stay hydrated and seek air conditioning or shade. You should also avoid strenuous activity and wear loose, cool clothing.
Migraine sufferers may find that their symptoms are worsened by intense heat. A study published in the journal Neurology found that migraines were more likely to occur on days when the temperature was above 75 degrees Fahrenheit
The study also found that the risk of migraines increased as the temperature got higher. If you are a migraine sufferer, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated during very hot periods. You should also avoid strenuous activity and direct sunlight.
Decreased Kidney Functions
Exposure to intense heat can also lead to decreased kidney function. A study published in the journal Kidney International found that exposure to heat can reduce kidney function and increase the risk of kidney injury
The study found that the risk was highest among people who were already dehydrated or had other medical conditions.
Cool, Calm, but Cautious
Unbearable levels of heat can have a number of different effects on the human body, some of which are more serious than others. It’s important to be aware of the effects of intense heat so that you can take the necessary precautions to avoid them.
It’s important to stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids. Seek comfort in some shade and turn on the air conditioning when possible. Most important of all, monitor your body for any signs of distress.
Finally, an extra layer of protection can be added by learning first aid. These will allow you to respond correctly to any negative signs that intense heat brings.
Learn first aid with CPR First Aid’s Liverpool courses today.