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Prepare for the hottest summer on record: Why licking your wrists could help

Prepare for the hottest summer on record: Why licking your wrists could help

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
24.06.2024 16:45

Europe is warming faster than the global average, with this summer starting early and potentially becoming the hottest on record. This rise in temperatures significantly increases the risk of heatstroke. But what does licking your wrists have to do with preventing it?

This year, heatwaves have hit Europe earlier than usual. Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, and Italy have already experienced extreme temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Many places have recorded temperatures 10 degrees higher than the seasonal average. The past 11 months have been the warmest on record globally, and all signs indicate that the coming months will break these records.

Europe is warming faster than the global average

According to the latest data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the EU climate agency Copernicus (C3S), Europe has been warming at twice the global average rate since 1991. Out of the continent's 30 most severe heatwaves, 23 have occurred since 2000, with five of them happening in the last three years. Both agencies are warning that Europe needs to take more action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels.

High temperatures can seriously impact our health. One immediate danger, sometimes fatal, is heatstroke, which happens when the body temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius or above, exceeding the normal range of 36-37.5 degrees Celsius.

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This summer season arrived early and has already resulted in numerous deaths due to heatstroke. These fatalities have occurred not only among those on the pilgrimage to Mecca, where over 1,000 deaths have been reported but also on the Greek islands and other locations. Among those affected was the well-known English doctor Dr Michael Mosley. Heatstroke happens when the body temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius or above, exceeding the normal range of 36-37.5 degrees Celsius.

Heatstroke explained

Dr Donald Grant, GP and senior clinical adviser at The Independent Pharmacy explained heatstroke in an interview with Daily Mail. "Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, altered behaviour, nausea, rapid heart rate, and headache." Other symptoms include sweating, dark yellow-coloured urine and dehydration.

If dehydration sets in during hot weather, critical organs, including the brain, are deprived of blood in just five to ten minutes, leading to disorientation, dizziness, and unconsciousness. After 15 minutes, heatstroke and a 'complete loss of body function' can occur. This risk can occur even when the temperature is not excessively high. Experts advise caution when the temperature exceeds 27 degrees Celsius, with the risk becoming high when the temperature exceeds 31 degrees Celsius.

Excessive sweating strains the heart, forcing it to pump blood harder to transfer heat from the body's interior to the surface. When the body overheats and heatstroke occurs, the ability to sweat diminishes, causing the body temperature to rise even more rapidly. The lack of oxygen and intense heat can affect the heart muscle, disrupting its electrical system and leading to an abnormal heart rhythm. In severe cases, fluid can also accumulate in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and get sufficient oxygen, Daily Mail explains.

How to avoid heatstroke?

Dr Grant explained: "Avoiding long periods of sun exposure and managing water intake is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of experiencing this dangerous condition."

During hot weather in Poland, the hottest hours are from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., when the ground releases the heat accumulated during the peak sunlight hours. Therefore, it is best to limit sun exposure from midday to 5 p.m. Intense outdoor physical activity is also not advisable during these hours.

If you must be outdoors, sunscreen and a bottle of water are essential. Light-coloured headgear can help reflect the sun's rays. On the hottest days, it is advisable to close the curtains, avoid heat-generating appliances, and ensure airflow through cross ventilation and fans.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, research suggests that keeping all your windows open may not help cool your home. It is only worth opening them if it creates a draught or if the outside temperature is lower than the indoor temperature.

Instead of drinking alcohol, lick your wrists

Although hot weather and cold beer are a cherished combination in Polish culture, it is important to remember that alcohol is a diuretic, leading to more frequent urination. With temperatures currently higher than ever, Dr Grant emphasised, "Hot weather combined with alcohol can increase the speed of dehydration exponentially. Therefore, it's crucial to manage water intake to avoid falling ill." If you drink alcohol, it is essential to replenish your body's fluids simultaneously.

During hot weather, it is also beneficial to lick your wrists. This tactic, used by several creatures in the animal kingdom, including kangaroos and monkeys, can help humans keep cool. Although it might sound unhygienic, licking wrists cools the body as they contain pulse points, where blood vessels are close to the skin's surface. When we lick our wrists, we use saliva to mimic the effect of sweat, cooling the skin's surface. This slows down blood flow, preventing the body from overheating. If licking your wrists sounds unappealing, splashing them with water will have a similar effect.

Source: euronews.com, dailymail.co.uk

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