Hot Weather and the Human Body: Tips for Nevadans
AEven though Las Vegans say they’ve acclimated to the heat, no one is quite ready to endure the record triple-digit temperatures southern Nevada experienced last week.
Understanding exactly how the body responds is beneficial to better prepare desert dwellers to live with prolonged high temperatures. There is more to staying safe during the intense summer heat than just drinking water.
Without hydration, a person can show mild symptoms of heat illness within hours. Additionally, if a person is left in direct sunlight, organs in the body could start to fail, causing severe symptoms or death.
It all depends on how your body reacts to heat exposure. The way people experience heat is related to the ambient temperature and the humidity of the air.
What Nevada determines as a moderately high temperature without humidity would be considered dangerous and life threatening in parts of the country with more humidity. This is because moisture traps body heat on the surface of the skin, preventing cooling. On the other hand, desert environments are so dry that the water in the skin quickly evaporates. It becomes dangerous when the lack of visible moisture, such as sweating, can mask a more severe stage of heat illness.
Additionally, Las Vegas and other desert cities in the southwest experience an urban heat island, a phenomenon that occurs when heat is trapped in concrete and asphalt during the day and then slowly releases into the city. atmosphere at night.
When nighttime temperatures also rise, tolerance to heat becomes even more difficult.
“It becomes a problem when people exposed to heat cannot recover at night, because the night will also be very hot. So the next day, if they are exposed to heat again in the morning, they will start to suffer from heat exhaustion. And then finally, if they don’t take care of themselves, they might experience more complicated effects like heatstroke, ”said Erick Bandala, assistant research professor in environmental sciences at the Desert Research Institute. .
During the first heat wave of the year, first responders, emergency department physicians and severe burn surgeons see a slight increase in the number of patients suffering from heat-related illnesses, from mild cases to severe burns. heat exhaustion to extreme cases of third degree burns.
Burns can occur if the skin is in contact with concrete or pavement surfaces for up to 30 minutes, where temperatures can reach 170 degrees. People with conditions such as neuropathy, which causes a lack of sensation in the feet, are particularly vulnerable to hot surfaces, as are children 2 years and younger who cannot respond to heat quickly.
“Even if it’s 110-112 degrees outside, this pavement will be essentially level with the air. But when you combine the high temperature of the air with the intense sun, that surface can reach dangerously high temperatures, ”said Paul Chestovich, assistant professor of surgery at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. “It doesn’t take very long for this person to end up with third degree burns all the way through that are going to be really, really dangerous.”
The very young and old are particularly vulnerable due to difficulty regulating body temperature or the inability to defend themselves. Yet anyone can be a victim of intense heat-related illnesses.
For example, people aged 20 to 35 who drink alcohol or use drugs; those with underlying conditions like hypertension and diabetes; and those who take medication for allergies or mental health are all sensitive because stimulants and medications can interfere with the body’s signal to cool down.
People who regularly work outdoors can also be impacted. According to the Desert Research Institute study on extreme heat and its impact on environmental injustice, the more time an outdoor employee spends working for an employer, the more illnesses caused by the heat.
“It looks like people are going to start to feel safe because they are sort of air conditioned in the heat. So they stop worrying about it, ”Bandala said. “And that’s probably one of the reasons they’re more affected.”
Impact of heat on organs
Intense heat can affect almost any organ, from the skin to the kidneys to the brain.
When exposed to high temperatures, our body cools down in two ways. First, our blood vessels dilate to bring warm blood flow closer to the surface of our skin, where heat from the blood is transferred to the air. The other way our body cools down is through sweat production. The liquid we release in the form of sweat absorbs some of our body heat and then evaporates from our skin.
We tend to overheat in hot, humid climates because moisture in the air prevents sweat from evaporating, trapping heat. As soon as we produce a few drops of sweat in hot desert climates, the desert air absorbs it immediately.
“This is actually where a lot of people get very dizzy for the first couple of weeks. They don’t realize how much fluid they are losing because they can’t see it on clothes and as you know you’re used to if you come from a wetter area, ”said Dr Patrick. Olivieri, Valley Health System medical director and emergency physician. “So if you run out of fluid, you lose your ability to cool off. “
Losing the ability to cool down due to lack of water disrupts our body’s electrolyte balance, i.e. salt. Electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance acidity and blood pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue.
“We lose electrolytes every time we get cold. And if you drink only water, if you don’t follow enough, your electrolytes are released and cause severe muscle cramps. Separately, your body prioritizes where our fluid goes. So not only are the electrolytes different, but there is less fluid. And that’s why the muscles themselves, instead of being relaxed, hydrated, it’s now a dry thing that’s prone to injury and cramping, ”Olivieri said.
Nausea, dizziness, headache, and muscle cramps are signs of heat exhaustion. With continued exposure to high heat and sunlight, the body might begin to experience multiple organ failure.
The first organs affected are the kidneys. The kidneys control blood pressure and regulate fluids. When hydrated, they sort through electrolytes, blood sugar, and protein. When dehydrated, the body draws fluid from muscles and blood, eventually preventing the kidneys from filtering wastes from the body. As a result, the waste remains in the kidneys and begins to alter the natural functioning of the body.
As the body Is all he can at shoot humidity of our organs, our some blood start at thicken; the capacity at produce sweat at fresh down stop. Your body Temperature mounted at match the ambient Temperature in ten at 15 minutes. Some blood swimming pools at our hands and feet, slow down down some blood sink at the brain, first at confusion and finally loss of consciousness.
This chain of events describes heat stroke.
“Thousands of us die every year, and they’re all preventable. It’s a really sad thing from a public health point of view, ”Olivieri said.
How? ‘Or’ What can we protect ourselves?
The simpler advice is the best. First of all, drink plenty of water. Just because you’re not sweating doesn’t mean you’re not dehydrated or at risk: hydrate before you’re thirsty and schedule hydration breaks.
Remember to follow the ABCD-E to avoid heat-related illnesses: air conditioning, shaded breaks, loose clothing, frequent drinking of fluids, and limiting sun and heat exposure. If you see someone showing signs of confusion or appearing disoriented, call 911.