Let’s talk about the heat and health!

Is there a serious risk and danger for our health caused by the high heat that many places experience today?

Adriatic and Mediterranean climate

I very much like exactly this period of year – end of summer and beginning of autumn. Then the warmth we feel is not at all exhausting as during the full summer period and it is still pleasant enough to take a long swim in the sea and stay out even in the middle of the day. Of course, I am talking about a specific place, my hometown Pula and the Adriatic coast.

The stimulus to write about the climate and temperature impact was to point out at the extreme conditions that have been occurring more and more, especially during the summer period.

Risks of Heat to Health

According to the researches that have been carried out in some European countries, the number of causalities and deaths caused by extremely high temperatures have risen, especially among vulnerable groups. Such groups include people with cardiovascular diseases, the elderly, and obese. The other groups that are at risk are people who are exercising or working outside as well as those working in heated places such as bakeries, some factories and similar places. Medical conditions can also increase how susceptible the body is. People with heart disease, high blood pressure, respiratory disease and uncontrolled diabetes may need to take special precautions. In addition, people with skin diseases and rashes may be more susceptible to heat. Other factors include circulatory system capacity, sweat production and the ability to regulate one’s electrolyte balance.

I once experienced  heat stroke that, fortunately, didn’t last long but certainly worried me. However, when I put together the circumstances in which it happened and my swift recovery, I accepted it as a strong warning . The lesson I learnt was not to exaggerate with physical activities as the sun hits hard and with full potency.

Heat-related illness can strike anyone. High humidity also increases the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, your body’s way of cooling itself.

Precautionary Measures

Whenever possible, we should take precautionary measures and try to reduce excessive exposure to high temperatures.

Just to refresh your knowledge, here are some common, well-known facts about how our body reacts to heat:

Most people feel comfortable when the air temperature is between 20°C and 27°C and when the relative humidity ranges from 35 to 60%. When air temperature or humidity is higher, people feel uncomfortable. Such situations do not cause harm as long as the body can adjust and cope with the additional heat. Very hot environments can overwhelm the body’s coping mechanisms leading to a variety of serious and possibly fatal conditions.

Human’s Body Reaction to Heat

The healthy human body maintains its internal temperature around 37°C. Variations, usually of less than 1°C, occur with the time of the day, level of physical activity or emotional state. A change of body temperature of more than 1°C occurs only during illness or when environmental conditions are more than the body’s abilities can cope with.

As the environment warms-up, the body tends to warm-up as well. The body’s internal “thermostat” maintains a constant inner body temperature by pumping more blood to the skin and by increasing sweat production.

Evaporation of sweat from the skin cools the body. Evaporation occurs more quickly and the cooling effect is more noticeable with high wind speeds and low relative humidity.

The other well-known fact is that large areas of water, such as the sea or big lakes, help the environment to keep its balance during hot periods. That is why I like living in this area, with its healthy and moderate climate: hot summers and windy autumn and winter seasons. Still, I remain aware of the heat strokes that can sometimes hit us if we are not careful.

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