By Sean Murphy
Here in Australia we have survived another summer, and thankfully, winter is here. Early February saw a heat wave hit the central and eastern parts of the country making living conditions unbearable for the vulnerable. Our friends in the northern hemisphere know what it’s like as well to experience the effects of extreme heat, “Lucifer” or “Jolanda” was a heat wave that struck southern Europe 2017. France, Italy and Spain were just a few of the countries that endured excessively hot weather.
Following on from previous blogs Extreme Cold and the Human Body and The Effects of Dehydration on the Human Body, Extreme Heat and the Human Body is the third in the series, looking how exposure to adverse weather can effect those who continue to adventure, hike and camp as Mother Nature takes a turn for the worst and pushes the boundaries to the point of life and death.
* The first signs are thirst, perspiring and heavy breathing.
* When overwhelmed by heat, cramps can set in as electrolytes are no longer reaching the muscles, causing a salt imbalance.
* A heat rash is when tiny red spots appear on your skin meaning your sweat pores are blocked.
* When your body dilates your blood vessels in an attempt to radiate heat away from your system is called heat edema. Body fluid then goes to the hands and feet resulting in swelling.
* Heat exhaustion occurs once your body has lost enough fluids and salt and can no longer cope. Your central nervous and circulation systems are impacted. Dizziness, headaches and fainting can be the result.
* Once someone goes from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, the heavy perspiration they experienced upon being exposed to extreme heat. Dry skin, a body temperature that exceeds 39 degrees Celsius, confusion and sometimes unconsciousness follows.
As preparation is key, it is never advisable to embark on a multi day outdoors adventure when extreme heat has been forecast. But there are times when you can be in the middle of a summer escape when temperatures rise unexpectedly and you are out in the wilderness. There are signs to look out for, not just in yourself, but your companions as well.
Ensure you have more than enough water and be in a situation where you have water purification on hand in case you have to result to drinking untreated, or unhygienic water from a natural resource. Inform family and friends of your plans, where you are heading and which route you plan on taking. Take shelter from the sun as much as possible and wear the appropriate clothing that breathe and cools down the body.