How Much Heat Can Your Body Take Before Killing You?

It may be hot in the summer where you live,
but here’s a question: how hot is too hot? Like, at what temperature does your body ACTUALLY
start to break down? That escalated quickly. Well, so have the world’s seasonal temperatures. In Death Valley, one of the hottest places
on earth, the average temperature for July 2018 was a whopping 42.3 degrees C. That’s
the warmest single month that’s ever been reliably measured. In the WORLD. Seasons are getting more severe, especially
summers, which are accompanied by heat waves that can be seriously deadly. In the U.S., extreme heat now causes more
deaths than all other weather-related hazards. Heat waves around Europe have been killing
record numbers of people, most notably since 2003, when unprecedented summer temperatures
resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people across Europe. And it shows no signs of slowing down, with
all-time high temperature records being broken across the world. A new study is the first to project heat-related
mortality into the future. The conclusion? If we don’t adapt to climate change, deaths
due to heat-waves will increase all over the world. But how does heat actually kill you? Your body normally cools itself down by transferring
body heat to a cooler environment. We do this one of two ways: our blood vessels
dilate, bringing warm blood to flow close to the surface of our skin where the heat
can be transferred to the air*–this is why some people may appear flushed when they’re
hot. Alternatively, we lose the heat by sweating–the
liquid we release as sweat helps cool off our skin and takes some of our body heat with
it as it evaporates. .
But our internal body temperature sits at around 37°C. If the air surrounding us is as warm or warmer
than we are, we can’t transfer our heat anywhere outside our bodies as we warm up. If humidity is high AND temperatures are high,
sweating doesn’t do as good a job at cooling us off because it can’t evaporate–the air
around us is already too full of moisture. And when these conditions occur, as they do
in heat waves, it’s kind of amazing how fast everything breaks down. If your body is starting to overheat, the
first thing you may notice is that you stop sweating altogether . This means your hypothalamus,
the region of your brain that controls heat regulation, has been compromised and has stopped
working properly. You now don’t have a way to give off heat,
and your body temperature may be rising. You may be feeling fatigued, your brain telling
your muscles to slow down, and you’re at high risk of dizziness and even unconsciousness. Past 41°C, your body starts to shut down
in earnest. You may experience seizures or fall into a
coma as your tissues stop functioning properly on a cellular and even protein level. Your organs start to leak toxins into your
body, and if left unchecked, this process leads to multisystem organ damage, then failure,
and swiftly thereafter, death. And the thing is, temperatures don’t even
have to be that crazy–they just have to be significantly greater than what that area
is typically used to. A 105 degree day in Arizona may not be that
different from the norm, but a 90 degree day in Scotland could be deadly. Heat waves are also magnified in urban areas,
whose asphalt and metal buildings soak up and store more heat than surrounding areas,
making cities even hotter than the heat waves base temperature. And the places in the world that are hotter
to begin with will be hardest hit with the highest temperatures–new projections estimate
that by 2100, countries in South Asia may be too hot for people to survive. So could we adapt? New studies say probably not. If the projected warming does take place,
the amount of land rendered uninhabitable because it’’ll be too hot for the human
body to handle could dwarf the amount of land lost even to sea level rise, another huge
impending climate change concern. Just to reiterate, this means that some parts
of the world will eventually be so hot that we can’t live there because our bodies will
actually break down. Things are undeniably heating up. So, how do we get our way out of this one, guys? Let us know what you think in the comments
below, and subscribe to Seeker to stay updated on the state of the world as we work to find
solutions to major global problems. Like this one here that’s about a group
of surfer scientists who invented a new device that monitors climate change from the surf
break. Also, we have some exciting new changes coming
to the channel and we can’t wait to show you! It’s gonna look a little different around
here guys, but it’ll be good, stay tuned.


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