Avoid heat stroke

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By Dr. Victor Dumaguing

To Your Health

Friday, May 9, 2014


SUMMERS bring glorious sunrises and majestic sunsets. The days are filled with fun activities like fiestas, family reunions, trips to the beach and don’t forget the continuous supply of halo-halo and ice cream. Don’t forget the scorching temperature as the summer sun sends its ultraviolet rays alpha and beta mercilessly unto the Earth surface. Heat stroke is a very common summer concern.

Humans are warm-blooded, that is, they are able to maintain a normal internal body temperature, irrespective of the temperature of the surroundings. In contrast, cold blooded animals have their body temperatures in sync, i.e. the same as their environment. This uncanny and unique ability of humans is due to their Thermostat or Thermoregulating center, located at the hypothalamus in the brain which keeps normal body temperature within the range of 36.8 - 37.2 degree Celsius or (8-99 degrees Fahrenheit. This part of the brain is where antipyretics or fever -lowering medicines exert their effects.

The skin plays a crucial role in helping maintain this normal body temperature. The entire skin gets 15% of the total blood volume (5000 ml blood) circulating in the body; 40% of skin blood supply is used in helping expel toxic metabolic by-products while the bigger 60% is to help in temperature regulation.

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Radiation is the first mechanism by which the skin maintains body temperature; radiation being the escape of body heat in the form of invisible infra-red rays, felt by someone when a person who came in running, sits besides that person. Conduction is the escape or transfer of heat from a hot or warm body to a much cooler substance, as what happens to a telephone receiver after hours of continuous telephone use - telebabad-. Or the feeling of warm cozy comfort of the blanket, which earlier was icy cold when you first jumped into bed and pulled the blanket to cover you. Convection is the transfer of hear as carried by hot air. This is the basis for using alcohol bath- poring alcohol into the hands then lightly touching the arms and legs of a febrile patient, hoping to bring it down. Of course, the most common form of heat loss through the skin is evaporation- escape of heart through vaporized form, which is the basis for doing tepid or lukewarm water bath- with a face towel dipped in tepid water is rubbed vigorously unto the arms and legs of a feverish patient.

There are two types of heat; dry heat in which there is not much sweating and moist heat, as the name implies, is accompanied by high humidity, i.e., with a lot of perspiration, a good example of which is our Philippine climate. Sweat is hypotonic sodium chloride. So it stands to reason that if we sweat a lot, we loss not only water but also sodium.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 10, 2014.

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