Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The other side of the sunny season

Nathan Cabello - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Summer is definitely a most anticipated time of the year, perhaps second only to the yuletide holidays. With school out, the possibilities for fun are just endless. The warm weather makes the outdoors beckon.

But as ambient temperatures rise, the possibility of heat-related illnesses increases. Worse, this fact is often overlooked amid the widespread preoccupation with fun activities. Often, when an illness hits, it hits badly.

True, the body has a nervous system that maintains the body temperature at a healthy level. As the body temperature increases, the body tries to maintain it at normal by transferring heat. Sweating and blood flow to the skin - a process called thermoregulation - help keep the body cool. Yet with the combined burden of increased physical activities and hot weather, the body may no longer be able to cope.

According to the website www.webmd.com, a high body temperature, or hyperthermia, can develop rapidly in extremely hot environments, such as when one stays in a car in the summer heat, without air-conditioning. Hot temperatures can also build up in small spaces where the ventilation is poor, such as attics or boiler rooms. People working in these environments may quickly develop hyperthermia.

High temperature caused by a fever, the website explains, is different from a high body temperature caused by a heat-related illness. A fever is the body's normal reaction to infection and other conditions, both minor and serious. Heat-related illnesses produce a high body temperature because the body can no longer effectively transfer heat or because external heat gain is excessive.

Heat-related illnesses include:

. Heat rash (prickly heat), which occurs when the sweat ducts to the skin swell or become blocked, causing discomfort and itching.

. Heat cramps, which occur in muscles after exercise because sweating causes the body to lose water, salt, and minerals (electrolytes).

. Heat edema (swelling) in the legs and hands, which can occur when you sit or stand for a long time in a hot environment.

. Heat tetany (hyperventilation and heat stress), which is usually caused by short periods of stress in a hot environment.

. Heat syncope (fainting), which occurs from low blood pressure when heat causes the blood vessels to expand (dilate) and body fluids move into the legs because of gravity.

. Heat exhaustion (heat prostration), which generally develops when a person is working or exercising in hot weather and does not drink enough liquids to replace those lost liquids.

. Heatstroke (sunstroke), which occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature and body temperature continues to rise, often to 105 °F (40.6 °C) or higher.

Summer is sure to be a fun time when we are sure not to be saddled by heat-related illnesses - because we have taken the necessary precautions.

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