How much heat can the human body take

Here's what you need to know about extreme heat

Published: Tuesday 11 June 2019

Delhi was left scalded as the mercury soared to 48 degrees Celsius on June 10, 2019 — the hottest June day for the nartional Capital ever. Dholpur in nearby Rajasthan was worse at 51°C. It was the fourth time that the temperature crossed 50°C in June in the state, according to Indian Meteorological Department.

With north India in grips of an unabated heatwave, people face health risks that can be critical. Seriously, how much can a human body endure? Let’s try to understand.

The body works best in a narrow range of body temperature — 36-37.5°C, according to scientists. Breaching 40°C can be dangerous even at low humidity levels; with the temperature currently near 50°C, the situation is critical.

Our bodies combat heat mainly by sweating, breathing and increasing the rate of heart beat; the hotter and more humid it gets, the more the body needs to sweat it out, increasing the risk of dehydration.

Extreme heat can lead the to struggle to cool itself down, which can lead to heat cramps, exhaustion and even sunstroke.

A sunstroke is a medical emergency that can permanently damage vital organs; it can even be fatal, if not treated in time. People in hotter countries tend to better cope with extreme heat. But older people, babies and young children as well as pregnant women are susceptible to falling sick.

So, what precautions can we take?

Drink lots of water, avoid stressful exercises and dress lightweight in mild tones. In extreme temperatures, however, such precaustions don't work. It then becomes essential to find a cool environment to artificially reduce body's temperature.

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