The cause of a heat related illness is your body’s inability to keep itself cool enough, thus your core temperature rises. Your body’s natural cooling system is through evaporation. A cooling effect takes place when sweat evaporates from your skin’s surface. So to prevent your interior from over-heating, blood is routed to vessels close to the skin’s surface for cooling. This cooled blood is then circulated around to your internal organs to help maintain a temperature within a healthy range.
Weather is a primary cause for your natural cooling system to become inefficient, especially in hot, humid conditions. Humid air contains water at varying saturation levels. Your natural process of absorbing water off your skin to create cooling evaporation is reduced accordingly. And less evaporation means your core temperature can rise to a dangerously high level, which is the basis for heat sickness.
Weather is not the only factor that contributes negatively to your body’s temperature regulating capability. Certain health conditions and circumstances can raise your heat related illness risk as well, for instance:
- heart disease
- poor circulation
- consuming alcohol
- age ~ elderly, babies
Taking some drugs puts you at risk for heat sickness too, particularly:
- diuretics ~ affects body’s fluid balance
- psychotropics ~ haloperidol, chlorpromazine
- Parkinson’s disease drugs ~ inhibits perspiration
- tranquilizers ~ phenothiazine, butyrophenone, thiozanthene
There are two basic types of heat illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion typically develops because of an exposure to high temperatures without adequate fluid replacement. Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat sickness because it can cause permanent organ damage and even death. When suffering from heat stroke, your body’s core temperature can rise to above 106° F in a matter of minutes.
Following is a short list of some simple measures you can take for preventing heat illness:
- pace yourself
- drink plenty fluids
- replenish electrolytes via your diet
- wear a hat to keep your head shaded
- wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothe
Most heat illnesses happen to those who exercise in or exposed to hot, humid environments for an extended period. As such, the most important heat illness prevention measure you can take is to limit your time spent in hot, humid environments whenever possible.