How our bodies adjust to the heat - Tucson News Now

How our bodies adjust to the heat

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Hot temperatures mean precautions need to be taken to stay safe in the heat, especially at the start of summer. It takes about 7 to 14 days for the body to become acclimated to the heat. However, acclimation must be done safely and over time. Plus the more fit and healthy you are, the better you body can handle the heat. Know your limits. 

The Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), which works to prevent deaths in sports, says "when preparing to acclimatize to the heat, athletes should gain a base level of fitness in a cooler environment prior to heat exposure." 

This is good advice, not just for athletes, but for people that work outside. KSI says changes in the body take place to protect our health against the hot weather. 

Positive adaptations include reductions in:

  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature responses
  • Skin temperature responses
  • Perceived exertion

Plus there are increases in:

  • Sweat rate
  • Sweat onset (sweating starts earlier)
  • Heart function/blood distribution
  • Overall ability to perform in the heat

KSI also found the body decreases salt loss and improves blood pressure response.

Even after the body has adjusted to the heat, it is advisable to limit time outside during the hottest part of the day and take the below safety precautions against the heat at all times. 

Stay safe in the heat: 

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Sweating in the dry, desert heat is much more efficient than in humid environments. Dehydration sets in quicker here in the desert. 
  • Wear a broad brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes.
  • Slather on the sunscreen. Increased sweating during the heat weakens the effect of sunscreen, which means increased applications may be necessary. 
  • Never leave children or pets in cars, even for minutes, during hot summer day. When the air-conditioning is on the car the temperature may hover around 80°. But once the car is turned off, temperatures can increase to the 100s in less than 10 minutes. 
  • If pets spend most of their time outdoors they should be given plenty of cool, clean water to drink through the day, plus shade from the sun
  • Also, test the ground before walking the dog. If the ground is too hot to touch with your hand, then your dog should not be walking on it. Their paws are very sensitive to the heat and can be easily burned.  
  • Heat is the nation's number one killer. The National Weather Service lists a series of heat-related illnesses below.

    HEAT CRAMPS

    Symptoms:

    • Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen
    • Heavy sweating

    First Aid:

    • Call 911
    • Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasm.
    • Give sips of water, if nausea occurs, discontinue water

    HEAT EXHAUSTION

    Symptoms:

    • Heavy sweating
    • Weakness
    • Cool, pale, clammy skin
    • Weak pulse
    • Possible muscle cramps
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fainting
    • Normal temperature possible

    First Aid:

    • Call 911
    • Move person to a cooler environment
    • Remove or loosen clothing
    • Apply cool, wet cloths
    • Fan or move victim to air conditioned room
    • Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

    HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke)

    Symptoms:

    • Altered mental state
    • Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
    • High body temperature (106°F or higher)
    • Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating
    • Rapid pulse
    • Possible unconsciousness

    First Aid: 

    • Call 911 Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
    • Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment
    • Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging
    • Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s
    • Use extreme caution
    • If temperature rises again, repeat process
    • Do NOT give fluids

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