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What is the maximum temperature that the human body can tolerate?

Monday, July 3, 2023. A history that will remain engraved in climate records. On that day, the Earth experienced an average temperature that had never been reached before. From Antarctica to North Africa, across the United States and China, the thermometer has never shown an average like this: 17.01 degrees Celsius. This is a record exceeding the previous high of 16.92 degrees Celsius recorded in August 2016. On that day, the southern United States was under the weight of intense heat. Heat dome Overwhelmingly, China suffered a prolonged heat wave with values ​​exceeding 35 degrees Celsius, and North Africa saw a temperature rise approaching 50°C. Even in Antarctica, in the middle of winter, the temperature level was abnormally high. In the face of these harsh conditions, a question arises: What is the maximum temperature that the human body can tolerate?

The human body's limits to heat

What temperature can the human body tolerate?

the human body It is a marvel of biological engineering that is able to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. However, it has its limitations, especially when it comes to the heat level. In fact, our body is designed to function optimally at a temperature of 37°C. when Body temperature As it increases, the body sets up different mechanisms to try to regulate it.

One of these mechanisms is Sweating. When we sweat, water evaporates from the surface of the skin, cooling it. It's as if our bodies have their own built-in air conditioning system. However, this system has its limitations. In fact, whenmoisture The air pressure is too high, and sweat does not evaporate properly, making this cooling mechanism less effective.

Humidity rates (%)Maximum tolerable temperature (°C)
1060
2055
3050
4045
5042
6040
7037
8035
9033
10031
Below is a table that gives an idea of ​​the maximum temperature that can be tolerated depending on the humidity level. It is based on the concept of “humid temperature”, which is a measurement of combined heat and humidity. When the humid temperature reaches 35°C, the human body cannot cool itself effectively through sweating and the body temperature can rise dangerously.
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Factors affecting heat tolerance

The temperature limit that the human body can tolerate depends on several factors. These factors include age, weight, health status, hydration level, acclimatization to heat, intensity of physical effort, and of course duration of exposure to heat.

the The elderly and young children They are particularly vulnerable to heat. In fact, their bodies have more difficulty regulating their temperature, making them more susceptible to heat stroke. Likewise, people who suffer from certain chronic diseases or who take certain medications may be more sensitive to heat.

the People who are overweight and obese Reduced heat tolerance may be due to several factors, including a higher metabolic rate. Excess body weight can increase resting metabolic rate, which means these individuals produce more heat than people of normal weight. Furthermore, obesity is often associated with poor circulation and a decreased ability to regulate body temperature. In addition, since obese people have a greater amount of adipose tissue, this can act as an additional heat insulator, making it more difficult for the body to dissipate the heat generated. Fatty tissue can trap heat within the body, increasing body temperature and increasing discomfort in hot weather.

to'Moisturizing It also plays a crucial role in the body's ability to tolerate heat. In fact, when we sweat, we lose water. If this water is not replaced, we can become dehydrated, which may increase the risk of overheating

As we saw above, humidity can play an important role in our heat tolerance. In fact, when the air is too humid, it is difficult for sweat to evaporate from our skin, making this natural cooling mechanism less effective.

Finally, the duration of heat exposure is the deciding factor. The more heat we are exposed to, the more difficult it is for our bodies to cool down. This is why it is recommended to take regular breaks in a cool place when exposed to extreme heat.

Heatwave hydration
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Effects of heat on the body

When the body is exposed to extreme heat, several defense mechanisms are put into place. These reactions, although natural and necessary, can have serious consequences for our health if taken to extremes.

Increased heart rate

First, the heart rate increases. This increased heart rate helps send more blood to the skin, where it can be cooled by sweating. This is a normal and healthy reaction to heat. However, increased heart rate can put extra stress on the heart, which can be dangerous for people with heart disease. In addition, if this increase in heart rate continues for a long time, it can stress the heart and lead to heart failure.

Increased sweating

Then the sweating increases. As we mentioned previously, sweating helps cool the body. However, producing excess sweat can lead to dehydration, which in turn can increase the risk of heat stroke. In addition, excessive loss of mineral salts through sweat pores can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body, which may lead to muscle spasms, heart rhythm disturbances, and, in severe cases, seizures.

Risk of sunstroke

Finally, if the heat is too intense and/or if the exposure to the heat is for too long, the body may not be able to cool itself effectively. That's when the risk of heat stroke becomes real. The latter is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated quickly. Symptoms may include a very high temperature, hot and dry skin, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Other effects of heat on the body

In addition to these direct effects, heat exposure can also have long-term health effects. For example, frequent exposure to heat can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney problems. In addition, heat can worsen some existing medical conditions, such as asthma and chronic lung disease.

Consequences of extreme heat on the body

Increased body temperature leads to a series of unpleasant symptoms. For every 0.5°C increase in internal temperature, the average person's heart rate increases by 10 beats per minute, resulting in a quickened pulse and a feeling of dizziness.

Heat stroke, a medical emergency

Heatstroke is the most dangerous stage of heat exhaustion. It occurs when the internal body temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius or more. At this stage, the body is in a state of emergency, as its cooling mechanisms are no longer able to cope with the extreme heat. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention.

During heatstroke, the body loses its ability to regulate its thermal balance. Cooling systems, such as sweating, stop working properly. As a result, the temperature can rise quickly, which can damage the brain and other vital organs.

Symptoms of heatstroke may include hot, dry skin, high body temperature, rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, heatstroke can lead to coma or even death.

Heatstroke treatment aims to cool the body as quickly as possible. This may involve moving the person to a cool place, undressing him, covering him with wet sheets, or immersing him in a tub of cold water. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to provide supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids to treat electrolyte loss and hydration.

It is important to note that heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else is suffering from heatstroke, it is essential to contact emergency services immediately. The sooner treatment is given, the better the chances of survival and recovery.

Hazards to workers outdoors

Outdoor workers are particularly at risk during heat waves. Construction workers, farmers, gardeners and others who spend long hours working under the hot sun can become dehydrated and overheat quickly. It is crucial that these workers take regular breaks in the shade, drink plenty of water and wear appropriate protective clothing.

Risks for athletes

Athletes are also at risk when training or competing in hot weather. Dehydration and overheating can occur quickly during intense physical exertion under the hot sun. It is essential for these athletes to properly hydrate before, during and after exercise, and to pay attention to signs of heat stroke.

Consequences of heat waves on public health

the Heat waves It is one of the most dangerous weather phenomena. In fact, they kill more people each year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. For example, it is estimated that the 2003 heat wave in Europe caused the deaths of up to 70,000 people.

Heat waves can have serious health consequences, including heat stroke, kidney failure, cardiovascular problems, and even death. In addition, it can worsen existing health conditions, especially in older adults and people with chronic diseases.

How to protect yourself from heat?

In the face of heat, it is important to take certain precautions to protect our bodies. Here are some tips to help you better deal with the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration;
  • Wear light, light-colored clothing to help the body cool.
  • Avoid intense physical exertion during the hottest hours of the day;
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible and use a fan or air conditioner to help cool;
  • Take a cold shower or bath to help cool your body;
  • Listen to your body and rest if you feel tired or dizzy.

future prospects

With climate change, heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. According to some projections, by 2100, 75% of the world's population may be exposed to at least 20 days of deadly heat waves annually. This highlights the urgent need for action to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.

As heatwaves continue to break records around the world, it's more important than ever to understand how our bodies respond to heat and how we can protect ourselves. Ultimately, our survival could depend on it.

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