UK Swelters; What Extreme Heat Does to Your Body


The UK’s heat wave is so bad that some think it deserves a name, hurricane-style. That’s to help people understand that this weather isn’t nice, but extreme — and potentially dangerous, according to Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

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(Bloomberg) — The UK’s heat wave is so bad that some think it deserves a name, hurricane-style. That’s to help people understand that this weather isn’t nice, but extreme — and potentially dangerous, according to Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. 

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Temperatures in some areas are set to exceed the UK’s daytime record of 38.4 degrees centigrade (101.1 Fahrenheit) early next week. The Meteorological Office has issued an extreme heat warning for Monday and Tuesday in parts of the country amid an unusually long streak of days with thermometers hovering around 30C. There’s an 80% chance temperatures will break records on those days, the Met said. 

From sunburn and lower productivity to high blood pressure, here’s how the British sun may try to mess with your body and mind, and what you can do to keep cool.

What’s going on in the heat?

When your body temperature increases, blood vessels respond by widening to try and cool you down. That means lower blood pressure and more effort for your heart, which now has to beat faster to pump blood.

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You’re also likely to be sweating. That’s your body trying to lower its temperature. However, this also means you’re losing essential salts and fluids.

Each is challenging on its own, but a cocktail of low blood pressure and sweating is particularly risky. Side effects include rashes and swollen feet, along with nausea and headaches. In the worst case scenario, low blood pressure can also lead to heart attacks.

Warm nights are particularly dangerous because they stop bodies from cooling down.

“If you look at the pattern of deaths, what you often find is people who die during the day are usually dying from respiratory related illnesses,” Ward said. “But often the deaths that occur in the night are people who suffer strokes because their body just simply can’t regulate properly.”

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What are the main risks of too much sun?

  • Skin damage
  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Overheating

“All have serious consequences if not spotted and treated quickly, particularly for our more vulnerable patients, such as the elderly, young children, and people with chronic health conditions,” said Gary Howsam, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

What should I do when I’m out in the sun?

This should be your essential kit, according to Howsam:

  • Apply sun screen
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats
  • Put your sunglasses on
  • Wear loose clothes that cover the skin
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use insect repellent

Should I just stay inside?

Not really — unless you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning and wealthy enough to keep it running as energy costs surge.

“Being too hot inside can cause similar health issues, as well as impacting on productivity for some people if they feel fatigued or find it difficult to concentrate because of the heat,” Howsam said.

What should I do if I’m working from home?

  • Keep your environment well-ventilated
  • Use fans, if necessary
  • Keep your work space away from windows or close blinds and curtains, especially if they’re in direct sun

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