- James Gallagher
- Health and Science Correspondent
Officials warn that rising temperatures could affect people’s health in the coming period. The UK’s Health Security Agency issued a Level 3 warning for southern England on Friday and Saturday.
By Friday, temperatures in London could reach 34 degrees Celsius, and in Manchester it could reach 30 degrees Celsius.
In such exceptionally hot weather, people are asked to keep a close eye on the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, who are at greatest risk of heat exhaustion.
Here we review what you need to know about the effects of heat on the body and how to keep it cool.
What does extreme heat do? in our bodies?
As the body temperature rises, blood vessels open, lowering blood pressure and making the heart work harder to push blood through the body.
It can cause mild symptoms such as a heat rash or swollen feet from leaking blood vessels.
At the same time, sweating leads to a loss of fluids and salts, and most importantly, it leads to a change in the balance between them.
This, along with low blood pressure, can lead to heat exhaustion, the symptoms of which include dizziness, nausea, fainting, confusion, muscle cramps, headache, heavy sweating and fatigue.
If blood pressure drops too low, the risk of heart attack increases.
Why do our bodies react like this?
Our bodies strive to maintain a temperature around 37.5 ° C, whether we are in a snowstorm or a heat wave, this is the temperature at which our bodies have evolved to work.
But as the weather gets warmer, the body has to work harder to keep its core temperature low, which opens more blood vessels near the skin to release the heat and start sweating.
And when the sweat evaporates, it significantly increases the heat lost from the skin.
How can I stay safe in high temperatures?
The UK’s Health Security Agency offers some advice:
- Look for people who may be struggling to stay cool, such as the elderly, those with underlying conditions and those living alone.
- Keep cool indoors by closing curtains in rooms that face the sun.
- Drink plenty of fluids, and do not drink too much alcohol.
- Do not leave anyone, especially young children and animals, in a locked vehicle.
- Stay out of the sun between 11:00 and 15:00 when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
- Stay in the shade, use a sunscreen with high SPF and UVB rays, and wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Avoid physical exercise in the hottest part of the day.
- Take water with you when you travel.
- Be aware of the hidden dangers in rivers and open water as it will tempt you to go down in it to lower your body temperature.
How do I sleep well at night?
Use thin sheets, cool your socks in the fridge before wearing them, and stick to your regular bedtime, experts say.
What should I do if I see someone suffering from heat exhaustion?
If his body temperature can be lowered within half an hour, heat exhaustion is usually not dangerous.
The National Health Service in Britain advises:
- Move it to a cool place.
- Let him lie down and lift his feet a little.
- Let him drink plenty of water – sports drinks or rehydration drinks are also good.
- Cool his skin – splash it with cold water and blow it. Putting cold compresses around the armpits or neck is also good.
However, if the person does not recover within 30 minutes, it means that they had a heat stroke, which is a medical emergency and you should call 911.
People with heat stroke can stop sweating, even if their body temperature rises. They may have a temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius, and they may have seizures or lose consciousness.
Who is the biggest danger?
Being older or suffering from certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, can make people less able to cope with the stress that a high temperature places on the body.
Diabetes can cause the body to lose water faster, and some complications of the disease can alter blood vessels and the ability to sweat.
Children and people with less mobility may be at greater risk. Brain diseases, such as dementia, can make people unaware or do nothing about it.
Homeless people are more exposed to the sun, and people who live in apartments on the upper floor also experience higher temperatures.
Do some medications increase the risk?
Yes, but people should continue to take their medication as usual, with more effort required to stay cool and hydrated.
Diuretics – sometimes called “water pills” – increase the amount of water that the body expels. These pills are widely used, also for patients with heart failure. At higher temperatures, these pills increase the risk of dehydration and an imbalance in essential minerals in the body.
And antihypertensive medications, especially if blood vessels dilate to adapt to heat, can cause dangerously low blood pressure.
Some medications for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease can prevent sweating and make it difficult for the body to cool itself.
Other medications, such as lithium or statins, can become more concentrated in the blood and cause more problems if the body loses too much fluid.
Does overheating kill?
There are about 2,000 deaths each year due to rising temperatures in England.
Most of these deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes caused by stressing the body while trying to maintain a stable temperature.
The high mortality rate begins to appear as soon as the temperature exceeds 25 or 26 degrees Celsius.
However, evidence suggests that deaths are often caused by warmer temperatures in spring or early summer, rather than at the “peak of summer”.
This may be because we are starting to change our daily behavior as the summer progresses and we become more accustomed to dealing with the heat.
It was clear from previous heat waves that the increase in deaths occurs very quickly – within the first 24 hours of a heat wave.