Monday morning, and you’ve just driven out of the basement. The day looks beautiful, the sun is high and you’re on your way to work. Until you pull up, swing the car door open, and step out. That’s when you’re hit by that hot, sticky wall of humidity. Your spirits quickly get as foggy as your glasses.
Let’s face it – humidity is nobody’s friend. In fact, apart from the frizzy hair, sweat patches and the other humidity-related disasters that need to be handled, humidity has more serious, adverse effects on our health.
Humidity is a term used to describe the amount of moisture in the air. By its very nature, humidity can make warm temperatures seem all that much warmer. This is because it slows down the evaporation of sweat on your skin, which is your body’s primary cooling defense.
As the temperature on the surface of your skin rises, you begin to sweat. This sweat then evaporates, which in turn cools your skin down. When humidity is high, and the air is heavy with water content, your sweat doesn’t evaporate, and as such fails in its sole purpose—that of a cooling agent.
As a result, high humidity causes some very dangerous, if not life-threatening, effects on our health. Here are the top five effects of high humidity:
You get dehydrated when your body is not getting enough fluids or is losing too many fluids too quickly.
You can usually tell you’re dehydrated by symptoms like increased fatigue, dry mouth, a burning or upset stomach, or a dehydration headache. Almost everyone will experience one or more of these symptoms.
Another surefire way to tell whether or not you’re dehydrated is by the colour and volume of your urine. Dark urine passed in small amounts is usually indicative of dehydration. It is key to remain very well hydrated when it is humid outside. If that’s something you’re not particularly good at, take a look at our tips to get yourself to drink more water.
Basically, the hotter you get, the higher the odds are that you will get muscle cramps. That’s just the effect the increase in body heat has on your muscles. The harder your muscles work the more heat builds up in your muscles, causing your muscles to act like an overheated engine – they seize up and come to a grinding halt.
As sweat is released, vital electrolytes, sodium, and potassium are released as well, and this chemical imbalance can also either cause or intensify muscle cramps.
You’ve probably seen someone fainting from heat, or worse, experienced it yourself. Let’s try and understand why that happens.
When the body is overstressed and overtaxed, which might be the case when it is under duress from heat and humidity, it will try to compensate with blood pressure regulation. By maintaining proper blood pressure, your body will make sure that the brain has adequate blood flow to function well.
However, during days of high humidity, the ability of the body to regulate itself is thrown off-kilter. When blood pressure is not maintained, blood flow to the brain declines, and as result, we get woozy-headed and can faint.
Heat exhaustion is a result of our body being exposed to relatively high temperatures and humidity and most commonly occurs alongside dehydration. Heat exhaustion can be of two types — the first caused by fluid depletion, which can, in turn, bring on excessive thirst, or a second type caused by salt depletion, which can present with nausea and muscle cramps as well.
Mayo Clinic has an extensive explanation on heat exhaustion and outlines preventive measures for heat exhaustion.
Heat stroke is a more serious and potentially fatal extreme of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke can occur when the body is not able to adequately cool itself, and its core temperature gets to 40.5 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.
With the ability to cause both brain and internal organ damage, heat stroke is a medical emergency. The condition itself sets in only after prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity, coupled with dehydration. The symptoms of heat stroke include hallucinations, an altered mental state, slurred speech, a rapid heart rate brought on by low blood pressure, as well as moderate to severe dehydration.
With the UAE regularly being ‘stuck’ with high humidity so many days of the year, it’s important to be mindful of the health effects that it causes.
It is best to keep an eye out for symptoms, to recognise them and know how to treat them. Stay happy, healthy and hydrated!
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