It’s August, it’s Texas, and it’s hot! But it’s not just the temperature making the seasonal warmth so unbearable on most days. As people new to our area often say—it’s a different kind of heat. That steamy, muggy, dense kind of heat is due to humidity.
What Exactly is Humidity?
Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. And guess what—warmer air holds more moisture. High humidity levels make hot temperatures feel even warmer because sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly when there is already a lot of moisture in the air. Think of getting out of the pool and drying off with a damp towel—it won’t dry you as well as a dry one.
Humid conditions aren’t only hot and uncomfortable, though. If you’re not careful, humidity can pose dangers to your health as well.
High Humidity Health Hazards
Sweating is part of your body’s natural A/C system. When your body temperature rises, you sweat to release heat. As the sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools your body. Like we mentioned earlier, high humidity causes slower sweat evaporation. This may cause your body to overheat (hyperthermia), causing even more sweating. Excessive sweating can cause dehydration as your body loses water, salt and the electrolytes it needs to function properly.
Other heat illnesses associated with hot temperatures and high humidity include heat exhaustion and heat stroke—both extreme results of hyperthermia.
Dehydration and Hyperthermia Symptoms
Whether working or playing outside when it’s hot and humid, it’s important to be aware of the signs of overheating. Some of these may include dry mouth, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, profuse sweating or the absence of sweating, nausea or vomiting.
If you suspect you or someone you’re with is experiencing hyperthermia symptoms, get out of the heat and into a cool or shaded place. Have the overheated person lie down and elevate their legs to increase blood flow to the heart. Remove any tight or extra clothing. Apply cool towels or compresses to the skin to try lowering body temperature; taking a cool bath is even better. Sip water, sports drinks or drinks containing electrolytes—avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.
If symptoms don’t improve or continue to worsen, call 911. Call 911 immediately of the person goes into shock, faints or has a seizure.
Beating the Heat and Humidity
Ideally, you should do everything possible to stay safe and avoid dehydration and hyperthermia altogether. Here are some ways to beat the heat and exercise caution when you’re outside in hot, humid weather:
- Avoid doing or scheduling outdoor activities and chores during the hottest parts of the day. Do these things early in the morning or later in the evening if possible.
- If you’re working outside, take frequent breaks in cool, shady areas.
- Drink plenty of fluid—especially water and drinks containing electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing to help stay cooler.
- Get in the habit of carrying a small spray bottle and/or personal fan. Mist or fan yourself to cool off.
Be Cool (as possible)
Although it’s impossible to avoid the heat and humidity altogether this time of year, knowing how to stay as cool as possible and knowing the signs and symptoms of when the steamy heat has become too much for your body is key. If you think you might be experiencing dehydration, heat illness or hyperthermia, don’t wait around to see if it gets worse! Taking that risk isn’t cool!