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What extreme heat does to the human body

Many parts of the UK have witnessed soaring temperatures in the past few days – for instance, Santon Downham in Suffolk recorded a whopping 32.7°C (91°F) last week. When considering that global average temperatures are increasing year on year due to greenhouse emissions, amongst other factors, extreme heat is not only an inconvenience but also a major cause of concern. And yes, this includes the UK where the Met Office reports that the top 10 warmest years for the UK since 1884 have occurred since 2002. So in this Pacific Prime UK article, we’ll give you the lowdown on extreme heat.

Individual health insurance blog

What is extreme heat?

Extreme heat is objective – people in warmer climates are more used to heat than those from colder climates. So extreme heat is said to occur when temperatures hover above the average high temperatures for the region and last for several weeks. This can cause heat exhaustion – a condition that’s usually not serious if the individual can cool down within 30 minutes. According to the National Health Service (NHS), symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • a headache
  • dizziness and confusion
  • loss of appetite and feeling sick
  • excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
  • cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • a high temperature of 38°C or above
  • being very thirsty

Note: If heat exhaustion is not dealt with and turns into heatstroke, it constitutes an emergency. 

Tips to cool down body temperature

Some tips to cool down include:

  • Take a cold shower
  • Keep hydrated (preferably with a cool drink)
  • Wear light coloured, loose clothing 
  • Sprinkle water over skin or clothes during the day
  • Stay away from the direct sun between 11am and 3pm
  • Avoid excess alcohol or extreme exercise 
  • And more!

How does extreme heat affect the human body?

When the surrounding temperatures exceed the normal body temperature (of around 36.5–37 °C), the body prevents itself from overheating by evaporative cooling (aka sweating). This is because the capillaries or tiny blood vessels next to the skin expand to take advantage of the surface chill. That being said, sweating is less effective when the humidity is high because the air is already saturated with moisture. 

In cases where the blood doesn’t cool down, the body’s core temperature is raised and emergency protocols are triggered to protect the vital functions. Firstly, increased blood flow to the skin strains the heart, resulting in a racing pulse and lightheadedness. Secondly, the brain tells the muscles to slow down, which can cause fatigue. Thirdly, nerve cells misfire and lead to headaches, nausea, or vomitting. Finally, excessive sweating diminishes electrolytes and results in cramping. 

Organs can also start shutting down and cells begin to deteriorate if the core temperature rises past 40°C. When an overtaxed heart goes into cardiac arrest, this is a sign of a heat stroke. Other symptoms include hallucinations or seizures. Many heat stroke victims will also stop sweating and have hot, dry skin. As inflammation rises internally, there’s also pressure put on the kidneys. A failed kidney, in turn, can result in a build-up of toxins and impact other organs one by one. 

Get in touch with Pacific Prime UK today !

If you’re concerned about what extreme heat does to your body, chances are you’re concerned about health in general. In this case, it really can’t hurt to have a comprehensive, private health insurance plan in place. Whether it’s getting regular health checkups or seeing the doctor before things worsen, a good health insurance plan gives you peace of mind and enables you to put your health first. 

As a global health insurance brokerage and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime UK can help you find the right health plan for your needs and budget. We work with the top local and global insurers to bring to you the best expat health insurance, family health insurance, and more. Our advisors are knowledgeable, friendly, impartial, and ready to support you throughout your insurance journey.

Contact us to get started today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Suphanida aims to demystify the world of insurance by creating informative and engaging content. As a wordsmith, she spends the majority of her day writing and editing website content, blog posts, in-depth guides, and more.

Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys travelling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.