In Mississippi, it was always hot in the summer. It was extremely warm and humid outside. Going out into the heat felt like being enveloped by a sauna. Many of my patients worked on farms or in huge metal buildings without air-conditioning. I would frequently have to treat several people for hyperthermia each year. The unusual thing, though, is how few there were.
Another reason is that they worked for a year in that manner. Their bodies gradually acquired knowledge of the seasons. Even so, their bodies required assistance when it reached the high nineties. The savvy ones had figured out how to endure the heat.
How You Adapt to the Heat: Sweat, Blood, and Oxygen
We adapt to heat in several ways, depending on our temperature:
- Because the pores in our skin are larger, we sweat more. Sweating from the skin is a fantastic way to cool down. Our bodies produce twice as much sweat and begin sweating at a lower temperature to survive the heat.
- Because our sweat contains less salt, we don’t lose as much.
- We get better at focusing our attention, and we become more agile. We improve in the same way that an athlete’s physicality increases as he or she gets older: by increasing the efficiency of our heart. Our hearts become more efficient, pumping out more blood per beat. For cooling, blood circulates from our core to our skin surface.
- Our bodies are more efficient with oxygen usage. Our metabolic activity slows, and so does the heat it generates.
This is what’s known as heat acclimatization, and it takes approximately a week or two.
A sudden heatwave can catch our bodies by surprise. Here are some strategies to try.
How to Survive the Heat If You’re Not Adapted
If you work outside:
- Dehydration makes hyperthermia worse, so drink several glasses of water, juice, or sports drinks each hour. Heavy workers require at least a quart every hour. It does not have to be extremely cold. Instead, it can cause stomach cramps if it is only water. limit your caffeine intake, as well as high-sugar and alcoholic beverages since they really dehydrate you. And here’s the thing: If your doctor has advised restricting your fluid or salt intake, get his or her advice on what to do next.
- Do the bulk of your chores before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
- Take frequent rest breaks in the shade. Fan for a few seconds. Later on, I’ll tell you more about it.
- Loose, airy apparel is suggested.
- If you’ll be in the sun a lot, don’t forget to use suntan lotion every day and invest in a wide-brim hat.
If you’re inside with no air-conditioning:
- Reduce the humidity by opening windows and turning on a fan. It’s critical to have good air circulation.
- However, remember that fans can make you feel more comfortable, but they can’t cool off your body temperature when the heat index hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity may also slow sweat evaporation. This might be especially hazardous for persons whose bodies don’t respond as well as others, such as the elderly, youngsters under the age of four, and those with a chronic illness or who are physically active.
- A refreshing mid-day shower, bath, or sponge is beneficial.
- It’d be fantastic if you could visit an air-conditioned facility (mall, senior center, or adult day-care) during the hottest part of the day.
- Make a point of monitoring your at-risk family, friends, and neighbors twice a day. Make sure they’re drinking water and appear to be healthy.
In truth, keep an eye on yourself and your coworkers for any indications of becoming overheated.
Photo credit: Thomas Hochhäusler