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Researchers reveal the precise temperature where the human body starts struggling to cool down

The heat is especially impactful in urban areas, which tend to trap heat.

Heat stress, Human body starts struggling to cool down

Photo Credit: iStock

Researchers have known for years that there's an upper limit on how much heat the human body can take. However, that limit might be lower than you expect. 

A recent study revealed that the human body starts struggling to cope when the temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit, Insider reported.

What happened?

The new study was conducted by researchers at the University of Roehampton in England, building on a previous study from 2021. The researchers exposed subjects to different combinations of humidity and temperatures from 82 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit while measuring their core temperature, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.

What they found was that the participants' bodies started struggling at 104 degrees. There was a sudden spike in the researchers' measurements that suggested that the human body has a much harder time cooling off when the temperature is that high. The effect was especially noticeable when paired with high humidity.

Why is this finding about high temperatures important?

When the human body is exposed to more heat and humidity than it can handle, it experiences heat stress — meaning the heat has an impact on the person's health. They may experience dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, and underlying health problems can become worse.

Unfortunately, more and more people worldwide are being exposed to conditions that can cause heat stress as our planet continues to overheat. 

Thanks to heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere, the world is heating up to record-breaking temperatures. The heat is especially impactful in urban areas, which tend to trap heat, and humid parts of the world, but it can affect anyone anywhere.

What can you do about the heat?

Besides staying in air-conditioned areas, there are a few ways you can cool off and stay safe when the temperature is high. 

First, if you're experiencing a heat wave over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, resist the temptation to turn on a fan because it will only push hot air toward you and heat you up faster. Instead, stay out of the sun, drink lots of water, bathe your feet in cold water to bring your body temperature down, and avoid physical effort and exercise.

In the long term, the best way to fix our planet's rising temperature is to cut back on heat-trapping air pollution. 

Individuals can do this by switching from gas-powered cars and appliances to electric, lessening reliance on single-use plastics, choosing non-polluting energy sources like wind and solar when possible, and minimizing excess buying (and waste). Also, vote for policy changes that will help put a cap on air pollution.

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