Extreme heat is something that many people find impossible to withstand. This condition is called heat intolerance, also referred to as hypersensitivity to heat.
Definition: It is a feeling of getting overheated when the surrounding temperature rises, often resulting in heavy sweating. It builds up quickly or slowly, lasts for sometime and could also result in serious illnesses.
What controls Body Temperature?
Suffering from intolerance means that your body cannot regulate its temperature, and fails to strike a perfect balance between cold and hot. Body temperature in humans is regulated by hypothalamus, a part of the brain, which prompts the skin to sweat through your nerves. Sweating helps cool down the body as it evaporates off the skin.
Top 5 Causes of Heat Intolerance
Caffeine stimulates increase in heart rate and accelerates metabolism, thus raising body temperature and leading to heat intolerance.
2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Heat intolerance is commonly seen in those suffering from multiple sclerosis as they are not only sensitive to heat but their symptoms feel relatively worse due to the extreme heat. Tanuja Chitnis, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Partners Pediatric MS Center at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, associates the nervous system to a wired network of insulated electricals working better when the temperatures are cool. She further adds that although heat exposure does not cause permanent damage to those suffering with MS, it does make the symptoms worse.
Hyperthyroidism is a result of over production of thyroxin, the main hormone that regulates body metabolism. When produced in excess, it leads to rise in body temperature. The most common cause of this condition is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, wherein thyroid-making-antibodies produce excess thyroid hormone.
Medication is one of the most common heat sensitivity causes, including medications for allergy, decongestants and blood pressure. The body’s ability to naturally cool down by itself is prevented by allergy medications. For instance, blood pressure medications and decongestants may reduce blood flow to skin, while preventing sweat production. Decongestants increase muscle activity, thus raising body temperature.
Obesity is one of the most common causes as high cortisol levels are associated with obesity. Cortisol, a glucocorticoid (steroid hormone), normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. So, work on lowering your cortisol levels to help your system adapt to temperature fluctuations. Sources from National Institutes of Health suggest that targeting cortisol might help lose weight, thus reducing risks related to heat intolerance.
Top 5 Heat Intolerance Symptoms to look out for:
Heat intolerance makes you feel overheated. A common symptom is heavy, excessive sweating. Although the symptoms start occurring gradually, the heat intolerance lasts for one to two days after developing. Other common signs you need watch out for are -
*Note: If you’re running a temperature ranging between 100.4ºF and 105ºF even though you’re not ill, it signals that you’re heat-sensitive. Also note that your heartbeat will be faster than normal.
Potential Risks of Heat Intolerance:
Heat intolerance, especially in those suffering from MS leads to vision problems, ranging from blurred vision to loss of vision temporarily. This condition is called as Uhthoff’s phenomenon, wherein rise in temperature distorts nerve signals. These symptoms are temporary and usually get resolved once the body cools down.
Under severe conditions, heat intolerance leads to heat exhaustion and some of these symptoms include –
- Muscle cramps
- Loss of consciousness
- Elevated heart rate
- Body temperature of about 105 ° and
- Rapid Breathing
Treatment of Heat Intolerance:
You can protect yourself from effects of heat by sipping on plenty of water to beat the dehydration, preferably by drinking iced drinks. It also helps by keeping the affected person in a comfortable environment and by resolving the actual cause of heat tolerance and treating them accordingly.
Top 4 Strategies to Ease Heat Effects:
- Ensure you stay in air conditioned surroundings, especially during extreme hot and humid weather conditions
- Prefer breathable and lightweight clothing.
- Use oscillating fans while exercising indoors,
- Prefer a cool pool for swimming
Symptoms can be reduced by staying in a cool environment. Drinking more fluids, especially if the person is sweating excessively, may help. HOD of Dietetics, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, Nidhi Dhawan says, “You can control this yourself by changing your food habits and consuming foods that can help you keep your body temperature regulated.”
Top 5 Foods to Flush out Heat from the Body:
You need to eat right to control body heat and stay hydrated. Here are top 5 foods to reduce body heat -
- Cardamom: Ancient Ayurveda claims cardamom to be an excellent ingredient to naturally reduce body heat. Add cardamom to tea or add as a flavouring agent to your sweet and savoury dishes.
- Apricot: A glass of apricot juice with honey cools down body temperature and thoroughly quenches thirst.
- Peaches: Excessive body heat causes skin irritations and rashes. Peaches are excellent sources of vitamins A & B2 & potassium - essential stuff for great skin health. Dried peaches aid in regulating and balancing body heat.
- Buttermilk:Nothing beats the good old buttermilk which supplies the body with plenty of probiotics, vitamins and minerals
- Watermelon : Watermelon contains 95 percent water – great to reduce body heat within no time.
Prevention of Heat Intolerance
Make sure you take enough measures to prevent heat intolerance. Here are a couple of preventive pointers :
- Stay away from the sun as much as possible; take regular breaks if you need to work in the sun
- Constantly keep sipping oral rehydration solutions, rather than water
- Stay away from alcohol and caffeine as they worsen dehydration
- Keep monitoring babies, kids and the elderly very closely in extreme hot conditions
- Limit your outdoor time and rest as much
- Stay alert and identify early signs and symptoms and act accordingly and immediately
*Practical tips to control body heat
- Run sandalwood on your body – lowers temperature drastically
- Add few drops of rose water to sandalwood – enhances its effect
- Soak your feet in a cold water tub
- Drink plenty of coconut water - hydrates the body and naturally balances your body electrolytes, besides instantly regulating body temperature.