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Shëndeti

What do heat waves do to the body, who is most at risk?

What do heat waves do to the body, who is most at risk?

Heat waves will become more frequent as the world continues to warm, bringing dangerously high temperatures.

Heat can affect anyone, but certain vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and infants, are at greater risk of serious injury.

Here's what you need to know about the effects of heat on the body and how to stay cool.

What does extreme heat do to our bodies?

As the body gets hotter, the blood vessels open. This leads to lower blood pressure and makes the heart work harder to push blood around the body.

This can cause mild symptoms, such as rash, itching or swollen feet. At the same time, sweating leads to the loss of fluids and salt and, most importantly, changes the balance between them in the body.

This, combined with low blood pressure, can lead to heat exhaustion. Symptoms include:

-cold, pale and clammy skin

If blood pressure drops too much, the risk of heart attacks increases.

Why does our body react this way?

Our bodies strive to maintain a core temperature of around 37C whether we're in a snowstorm or a heat wave. It is the temperature at which our bodies have evolved to work.

But as the weather gets hotter, the body has to work harder to keep its core temperature down. It opens more blood vessels near the skin to lose heat to our environment and begins to sweat.

As sweat evaporates, it dramatically increases the heat lost from the skin.

How can I stay safe in the heat?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some advice:

Wear appropriate clothing that is light and loose

Stay in an air conditioned place as much as possible. If your house doesn't have air conditioning, go to the mall

Limit outdoor activity or reschedule when the temperature is cooler

Drink plenty of fluids and don't drink too much alcohol

Stay in the shade, use SPF and UVA sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat

Old age or certain long-term conditions, such as heart disease, can leave people less able to cope with the strain heat puts on the body.

Diabetes can cause the body to lose water more quickly, and some complications of the disease can change blood vessels and the ability to sweat.

Children may also be more vulnerable. Brain diseases, such as dementia, can also leave people unaware of heat or unable to do anything about it.

More than 700 people in the US are killed by extreme heat each year. Most of these from heart attacks and strokes caused by the strain of trying to keep body temperatures stable.

However, evidence suggests that deaths tend to be caused by higher temperatures in the spring or early summer rather than the "summer peak". This may be because we start to change our daily behavior as the summer progresses and we get more used to dealing with the heat.