Have you ever wondered why, if the human body is 98.6 degrees, when the weather reaches that same temperature, we find it so difficult to cope with?
If you are living in the parts of the U.S that have been affected by the freakish heat-waves of late, you might have found yourself pondering this very question. The recent heat-wave is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 52 people and this weekend, New Yorkers were sweating buckets and frantically fanning their faces when temperatures reached 99 degrees!
The reason we struggle to cope with temperatures that are akin to our own body temperature is because our bodies need to disperse heat and they can’t do that when the air is the same temperature as our body is. Our metabolism and muscles are constantly generating heat and we regulate our body temperature by transferring this heat onto our surroundings.
We do this by sweating, exhaling warm air and circulating blood near the surface of the skin to cool it down. When the weather is the same as our natural temperature that heat cannot be effectively disposed off and we start to feel incredibly uncomfortable!
This discomfort is further confounded when there is humidity in the air, because that interferes with the vaporization of sweat and this is one of the body’s primary methods of cooling itself down.
Your frame, body mass and metabolic rate can also affect how well you cope with the hot weather, those with heavier builds tend to struggle more than those with smaller builds because they evaporate heat less effectively. Body fat levels also make a difference because fat absorbs heat easily and makes the obese much more likely to feel discomfort in hot weather.
The elderly also suffer greatly during heat-waves because the body’s ability to regulate its body temperature gradually declines with age.
Exercising in extremely hot conditions can also be dangerous, because it causes the body to generate extra heat. Researchers in Darwin Australia observed the body temperature of long distance runner on a 30 minute jog in humid conditions and in cooler ones. During the humid jog, his body temperature increased to 105.8 degrees, but on the cooler run, it went up just 2 degrees!
It believed that the optimum outdoor temperature for the human body to be at its happiest is around 70 degrees.
Why Is a 98.6-Degree Day So Miserable? (Via Slate)