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Heat related illness simple explained

In this text we will explain the reason why people get ill when they are overheated. To keep it simple we will use the example of...

what is happening with a car engine, since there are some remarkable similarities!



Your car engine

The human body

What action can you take

When the engine of your car starts working, he will use the petrol to make the engine run. A by-product of that is that it will produce heat, not all the energy is transformed to power on the wheels!

In a human body your food is by the metabolic system transferred into energy that allows you to work, carry loads, run etc. but also here there is a by-product, you heat up!

Stay fit! A healthy body has a much more efficient metabolic system, so it generates less heat. Also eat and drink the right food!

Not good is, alcohol, coffee, tea, cola, sugared drinks, oily food

When a certain temperature level is reached, the thermostat of your car will start the flow of water towards the radiator. The radiator will give the heat to the air (convection)


When your body temperature is raised 0.5 degrees, your brain will start to give a signal to your body that you need to cool down. To do so it will direct more blood to your skin (= your radiator!) to lose the heat by convection (air stream), conduction (contact with cooler surfaces) or evaporation (sweat goes into damp). It does so by opening up your pores, increase the blood pressure and heart rate. You will have temporarily less blood for your brains and vital organs

Mother nature knows how to take care of things. But be aware! When the situation takes too much time to get back to normal again, you will experience the symptoms of heat related illnesses. Take immediate action if you feel:

·         Dizziness, headache, feeling week, fatigue,  feeling to faint.

·         Nausea, feeling that you have to vomit

·         Feeling heart rush, high blood pressure.

·         If you have a dry and hot skin.

·         If you have cramps, stiffness, painful muscles

The water cooling system in your car is a closed circuit. If not over heated, you will not lose fluids

This is different for the human body. The “heat transport system”, your blood, is a closed circuit, but  in the process you lose sweat , so water and salts. They need to be replenished in order to allow your body to lose its surplus of heat by sweating

Drink, drink, drink!

Drink minimal one liter water per hour, before you go into the heat, when you are in the heat and after you got out of the heat. Drink minimal 200ml electrolyte drink per hour to replenish the lost salts. (Electrolyte based on the new formula of the WHO (World Health Organization)

If you cover your radiator with a plastic bag, the convection will be much lower and your car might overheat

If you cover your body with clothes, uniforms etc. you have less convection, so you lose less heat. Also conduction and evaporation is much more difficult

Wear loose clothes, do not wear cotton underwear, use sweat aiding underwear, like Xystec, coolmax etc.

In an overheated situation, the water in your engine will start to boil. When you lose the water, you lose cooling capacity and the situation will get worse

You need the sweat to cool your body. If you are dehydrated, your cooling capacity dramatically reduces! You will get a dry, hot, red skin.

Again, drink, drink, drink!

If your car needs more cooling because of the ambient temperature, you can increase the capacity of your cooling system by adding additional radiators, forced air cooling etc

If your body needs more cooling because of the ambient temperature and high humidity, you can aid its ability to cool down by creating a forced air stream, that will increase the ability to evaporate sweat (convective, evaporative) or by cooling it with a system of cold water, circulating in tubes on a vest (conductive)

Airstream and cold water are the only two working systems in this environment. The other two personal cooling systems, PCM and evaporative cooling do not work with the high temperatures and high humidity’s in the Middle East