Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Health Effects of Extreme Heat, and Their Remedies

Four environmental factors work together to make it hot enough to put health at risk.

high air temperature
high air moisture content (often expressed as relative humidity)
radiant (sun) load
lack of air movement (wind - which usually moderates the negative effects of the other factors)

Even at rest your body generates heat. In the summer time it is important to constantly release this heat from your body. For your body to function properly, its inner (core) temperature should be close to 37°C. This normally varies by a few degrees over the course of the day and during physical activity. As your work load and body heat increases, so does the need to lose that heat. A core temperature of 40 or 41°C is considered life-threatening if you don't have a fever. If you are sick with an infection you may have a fever, this is not necessarily life threatening as it is the body's way of fighting off the infection.

Because heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with measures that aid the body's cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness. This pamphlet tells how you can prevent, recognize, and cope with heat-related health problems.

Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.

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