Here’s what happens to the body in extreme temperatures — and how heat becomes deadly

Heat is the most deadly extreme weather condition, causing more deaths annually in the U.S. than hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined. This article details how the human body reacts to extreme heat and the potentially fatal consequences.

Physiological Response: Excessive heat exposes the human body to three primary deadly risks
* The human body attempts to cool down by redirecting more blood to the skin and through sweating, especially in high temperatures and humidity.
* However, such conditions can cause the gut to become more permeable, leading to the leakage of toxins into the bloodstream, potentially causing a “cascade of effects” including multiple organ failure.

Cardiovascular Impact: Extreme heat makes the heart work harder.
* With more blood being pumped to the skin, the heart rate increases to maintain blood pressure. For some, this could lead to spikes in heart rate, which could trigger heart attacks, especially for elderly people and those with underlying heart conditions.

Fluid Loss and Kidney Failure: Extreme heat can result in the body losing large amounts of fluids.
* Severe dehydration due to excessive sweating can lead to a decrease in blood volume, which in turn strains the heart and kidneys.
* There is also a risk of rhabdomyolysis, where muscle tissue breaks down and releases proteins that could potentially clog the kidneys.

Heat Safety Advice: The article suggests certain measures to stay safe in extreme heat.
* Early signs of heat exhaustion, such as headaches, dizziness, and general discomfort should be addressed immediately. Drinking plenty of water, staying in the shade or indoors, and cooling down the body physically are crucial.
* In severe heat exhaustion, vomiting or a loss of coordination could occur.

Heat Vulnerability: There is no definitive temperature at which heat becomes dangerous as it highly depends on individual factors and environmental conditions.
* Factors such as age, physical condition, exposure duration, and the presence of high humidity can influence a person’s ability to withstand heat.
* Particularly vulnerable are the elderly, the very young and those exposed to high-intensity heat for extended periods. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb if the temperatures are high enough.

View original article on NPR

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