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heat wave on body

What Can Heat Waves Do to Your Body?

NJ is having its first heatwave in August. The longer you spend in the heat, the more serious the effects can be on your body. Here are some things that can happen to your body and what precautions to take. 

Sweating: This is your body’s natural way of cooling down. Your body pushes sweat out onto the surface of your skin. As the air absorbs it, it moves heat away and cools you down. You may get exhausted and sometimes seriously ill if it doesn’t work quickly enough.

Heat Exhaustion: It happens in extreme heat when your body can’t get cool enough and sweats away too much water and salt. You also may be tired, weak, lightheaded, and nauseous, and have a headache. Get to a cool shaded area, lie down, and drink something with salt and sugar. Sip water if that’s all you have. 

Heatstroke: This is heat at its most dangerous – you can’t control your body temperature, which can go above 104 degrees. Call 911 right away. Left untreated, it may cause seizures, coma and can be life-threatening. Get to a cool area and pack ice under your arms and between your legs.

Dehydration: When it’s very hot, you can sweat away too much fluid. You could even feel dizzy, lightheaded, and confused. Head for a cool place and drink something balanced with salt and sugar. 

Heat Rash: This happens when it’s hot and humid weather which can cause sweat to block your sweat glands. If your pores can’t get unblocked, you can break out in tiny red bumps. You can help prevent it and treat it if you wear light, loose, absorbent clothing like cotton. Try to stay as cool and dry as possible.

Fainting: Heat can dehydrate you and make it harder for your brain to get enough blood. That may make you dizzy and pass out. It might be worse if you stand for a long time or get up suddenly. If you feel faint, lie down and raise your legs above your head. 

Higher Heart Rate: Your heart may beat faster when you get hot. It does this to pump more blood to your skin, where it can release some of that extra heat. 

Lower Blood Pressure: Heat plus sweat makes you lose fluids and electrolytes. Together, these things might drop your blood pressure, sometimes enough to make you dizzy or even pass out. It could be even worse if your heart doesn’t pump normally and can’t adjust to the greater demand.

Here are some precautions to take when a heatwave hits:

  • Drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate you.
  • Eat lighter meals more often.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Stay inside as much as possible and avoid outdoor chores.

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