free hit counter code Delhi is sweating through a deadly heatwave. What happens to your body at 50°C? – Freeht.buzz

Delhi is sweating through a deadly heatwave. What happens to your body at 50°C?

A man shelters from the sun with a towel near the Colosseum
Across the world, temperature records are being broken (Picture:Reuters)

Delhi is battling a deadly heatwave, with the temperature hitting 50.5C on Wednesday.

The record figure, taken in the suburb of Mungeshpur, came just a day after the previous record of 49.9C was set.

Authorities are warning of water shortages, while the India Meteorological Department (IMD) highlighted the severe dangers to health of such extreme heat.

It said there is a ‘very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heat stroke in all ages’, adding that extreme care was needed for vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those who are ill.

People exposed to heatwaves face increasingly severe illnesses.

The mildest are heat cramps.

A man battles the heat in Delhi
Delhi is in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave (Picture: Getty)

There are two main mechanisms used by the body to keep cool. The first is vasodilation, where the small blood vessels, or capillaries, just beneath the skin widen. This exposes more blood to the surface, where heat can be released through radiation.

A second mechanism is through sweating, which draws heat from the skin as it evaporates. However, sweat contains salts, which are vital in muscle movement. This means if the body is sweating but the salts are not replaced, such as through a sports drink, the muscles can cramp.

These two actions help to maintain the body’s internal temperature of 37C, known as thermoregulation. However, as external temperatures exceed that level, it becomes harder for the systems to prevent the core temperature climbing.

After heat cramps, the body may begin to suffer heat exhaustion. In addition to heavy sweating, early symptoms include feeling faint or dizzy. This is caused by an increased heart rate as more blood is pumped to the skin. 

This can also lead to a weak, rapid pulse – for every 0.5C rise in core temperature, the heart rate goes up around ten beats per minute.

It is essential to keep hydrated in the heat
It is essential to keep hydrated in the heat (Picture: AFP)

To prevent further heating, the brain tells the muscles to slow down, leading to a feeling of fatigue. Nausea and a headache may also set in.

At this point, anyone suffering these symptoms should stop all activity, rest, move to a cooler place and drink water or a sports drink.

If the body’s core temperature continues to rise above 40C, the third and final illness to strike is heatstroke. This is the most severe form of heat stress, and can be fatal.

The body’s heart rate will continue to increase, placing the organ under stress, while breathing may become rapid and shallow.

Skin may turn red as blood is pumped to the surface faster, but by this time, the body may be dehydrated and no longer producing sweat, reducing its capacity to cool down. Instead, skin may be hot and dry to the touch.



Heat stress risk factors

Age Infants and children under four and adults over 65 are at a higher risk of heat exhaustion

Drugs Some medications can affect the body’s ability to stay hydrated. These include beta blockers, diuretics, antihistamines, tranquilisers and antipsychotics. Some illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can also increase core temperature

Drinking alcohol Alcohol can also affect the body’s ability to thermoregulate

Obesity Excess weight can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature

Sudden temperature changes Those not acclimatised to hot temperatures will be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses

Source: Mayo Clinic

As heatstroke progresses it can lead to confusion, delirium, slurred speech and even seizures. The most severe cases can leave sufferers in a coma. 

However, the first organ to begin to fail is usually the kidneys, which reduces the body’s ability to remove toxins from the blood, triggering failure in other organs.

If left untreated, heatstroke can be fatal – and as global temperatures rise, more people are going to be exposed to extremes. A 2017 study published in Nature Climate Change projected that by 2100, 75% of the world’s population would be exposed to deadly heatwaves for at least 20 days of the year, compared to 33% today.

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