Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Your Body and the Heat

With temperatures coming this week that are a little unfamiliar to us in the PNW (85, 91, 94), I thought that it would be the opportune time to talk about how our bodies handle and react to the heat.

Personally, I like a little stretch of heat where you can just sit in the shade and sweat a little bit, but I might be alone on that one.  With that said, one of the most important ways that your body handles heat is to sweat.  Sweating is a good thing.  The moisture from your body is released through pores throughout every aspect of your skin for one purpose, to cool your body.  When that sweat evaporates from you skin, it acts to cool down your body's overall temperature.  So, go ahead and sweat.  Who cares if you have a slight "shimmer" or your shirt looks like you just stepped out of the shower.

One other thing that your body does when hot is to rush blood to the surface of the skin.  Just this past Sunday I noticed my son's cheeks were all rosy from running around outside.  Your body channels blood in to the tiniest little capillaries in your skin to release heat through your skin and to allow the evaporating sweat to cool the blood as well.  That slightly cooled blood then flows to the other heated up areas of your body.

Finally, if you've ever noticed a dog panting on a hot day, it's to release body heat.  Humans do it to, we just typically don't let our tongues flop out of our mouths when we do it.  When it's hot this week, do a little people watching.  You might be surprised at how many people are breathing more heavily with their mouths open, even if they are just walking or even sitting.  When you "pant" you release the hot air from you lungs.  It's another way to release heat from the blood that comes in very close contact with the alveoli of your lungs.

With that said, you do need to be on the lookout for some symptoms that would require you or a loved one to cool down a little faster.  Some symptoms include:

excessive sweating (more than usual)
weakness
headache
cramping
nausea

If you or someone else is suffering these symptoms, it's called heat exhaustion.  This is when you need to get out of the sun and slowly cool down.  Don't just jump into a cold shower.  Use cold cloths, take a cool shower, get a fan blowing on you, wet your hair, etc.

So, embrace the heat, just be mindful to be on the lookout if you think you may be getting to hot.