Heat-Related Health Problems

heat sun sm











Since we are in the hottest outdoor temperatures of the year, I wanted to make you aware of a number of disorders that could result. Our bodies depend on strict control of temperature because we stay alive because of constant chemical reactions and the speed of these reactions depends on our body’s temperature. Lower the temperature and the reactions slow and raise it and they speed up.


Obviously, when we are exposed to heat we sweat and the evaporation cools us. Sweating requires dilation of blood vessels in the skin and increased blood flow. This makes the heart work harder which is not good for people with heart disease. Sweat contains water and salt which is lost during sweating and should be replaced. The simplest and least dangerous condition is called “heat cramps.” This results in slow, unpleasant muscle spasms. This is from repeated exposure to heat and may be brought on by vigorous activity.


If one who has multiple exposures to heat can develop “heat exhaustion”. Heat exhaustion is as indicated, weakness, generally feeling bad (malaise), headache, and nausea. The body temperature is slightly elevated to about 100 F°.


The really dangerous condition is “heat stroke” which is life threatening. It can occur in young people when strenuous exercise is attempted in extremes of heat. I saw a good bit of heat stroke in the military and was part of a task force to implement regulations to avoid subjecting recruits to that danger. In older people who are debilitated or are taking certain medicines, their heat regulating mechanism may be defective. These people have confusion, high temperature and are not sweating. For this call 911.


Avoidance is best. The red flag is a high heat index which we in South Texas often have. So only go outside for brief periods when the heat index is high. Drink extra water during the heat; it is recommended to take in at least 2 eight ounces of water for every 50 pounds of weight and this should be increased to 3 glasses during summer. Spending time sweating means taking in more salt especially if you have muscle cramps. Make your summer safe by healthy habits.





Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a comment