London: The summer sun’s vitamin D is great for your mood, but when it comes to heat, you certainly can get too much of a good thing. Dangerous heat waves are sweeping the Eastern US and much of Europe this week, turning deadly for at least one Pennsylvania woman over the weekend.
Heat is deadlier than any other climate element – including floods, tornadoes, hurricanes lightning, and tornadoes – according to the National Weather Service, killing 107 last year alone.
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But it doesn’t have to be a killer, as all five types of heat-related illnesses can easily be prevented if you take the proper precautions. The human body is surprisingly adaptable, but our core temperature should hover somewhere between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the outside temperature climbs above 95, our biological cooling systems can start to break down if we don’t properly maintain them, allowing internal temperature to reach dangerous levels.
Typically, our body can regulate its own temperature through sweating, changes to the way the blood circulates through it and, when all else is failing, panting.
In extreme heat, the body wants to push more hot blood toward its surface to keep it from overheating the core and vital organs. Blood vessels open wider and the network of fine capillaries near the skin is put to work.
This increased, shallow blood flow allows some of the heat to dissipate from the body and explains the red flush that your skin gets when you are too warm.
Meanwhile, the body ramps up the production of sweat. The sensation of the cool moisture on the skin is momentarily cooling and, more importantly, as each drop of the sweat evaporates, it takes with it a bit of heat.
This is why humidity can raise the risks of over-heating. Sweat evaporation slows down when the air is already saturated with humidity and unable to take any more moisture.
If our sweat glands get clogged up, the warm moisture cannot reach the skin. As a result, the skin gets inflamed, and a heat rash of reddened skin and tiny blisters may appear, accompanied by a prickly sensation.
Heat rash fades quickly once the body or even just its surface is cooled down. The only more serious risk it poses is that the irritated area can get infected if the skin is broken.
This heat-related illness happens most commonly when people wear tight clothing that traps heat against the surface of the skin and blocks pores, so be sure to wear light breathable materials on scorching summer days.