Many of us believe that there is little we can do about weather conditions; I included. My situation has me moving from a rather cold to temperate climate to a rather hot and sticky one. So I set out in search of information on acclimation to extreme temperatures. • Heat acclimatization identifies biological adaptations that lessen physical strain (e. g. , heart rate and body temperature), improved comfort and protection of vital organs from heat injury. (U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) manual on heat acclimation, Pub. July 2012) • Heat acclimatization speaks directly concerning a certain environment, (e. g. , a desert, jungle or the arctic. ) Acclimatization to similar environments really improves comfort levels and ability to be active. (U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) manual on heat acclimation, Pub. -July 2012) None of us can control snow, rain or wind, but we can train our bodies to adapt better, perform better and be less stressed. Humans can employ very similar techniques when acclimating to extreme environments, both hot and cold.
Acclimation occurs in direct response to an ever changing environment. Acclimatization is the specific physiological changes which occur. Capillaries open wider to allow for more warm blood to enter in cold climates. Blood is redirected in heat to better more efficiently cool our bodies. Even psychological changes occur in this transition. We begin feeling less stressed by extreme temperatures and we begin emotionally feeling that “maybe it is not so hot/cold after all”. Our perceptions effect our levels of endurance greatly.
Why would we bother to acclimate other than for shear comfort? Very serious-sometimes life threatening illness can occur in an unconditioned individual. Acclimation actually lessens ones chance of becoming ill or worse from extreme temperatures. • “Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment. Heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are commonly known forms of hyperthermia.
Risk for these conditions can increase with the combination of outside temperature, general health and individual lifestyle. Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Heat stroke occurs when someone’s body temperature increases significantly (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and has symptoms such as mental status changes (like confusion or combativeness), strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, faintness, staggering, or coma.
Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with any of these symptoms, especially an older adult. ” (http://www. nih. gov/news/health/jun2012/nia-27. htm) • “Hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition, occurs when body temperature falls below 95°F (35°C). Although hypothermia is an obvious danger for people living in cold climates, many cases have occurred when the air temperature is well above the freezing mark. Elderly people, for instance, have succumbed to hypothermia after prolonged exposure to indoor air temperatures of 50-65°F (10-18. 3°C).
In the United States, hypothermia is primarily an urban phenomenon associated with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, and cold—water immersion accidents. The victims are often homeless male alcoholics. Officially, 11,817 deaths were attributed to hypothermia in the United States from 1979 to 1994, but experts suspect that many fatal cases go unrecognized. Nearly half the victims were 65 or older, with males dominating every age group. Nonwhites were also overrepresented in the statistics. Among males 65 and older, nonwhites outnumbered whites by more than four to one. (http://medical-dictionary. thefreedictionary. com/Hypothermia) So what can we do as individuals to lessen our chances of temperature related illness? Daily activity in the extreme temperatures will result in the desired physiological changes in about 14 days according to research by the Mayo Clinic and others. The U. S. Army manual on acclimation (TRADOC manual on heat acclimatization, pub.? ) suggests gradually increasing strenuous activities in hot climates until an individual has reached 2 hours of activity per day for 14 days.
A person attempting this should weigh themselves before exercise and again after to measure fluid loss. Fluids and electrolytes should be replaced promptly through consumption of Gatorade or other sports drink. The same holds very true for extreme cold environs. Gradually increasing your exposure to cold temperatures will cause changes in your body’s temperature regulation system. Blood flow will be increased in specific areas to heat your body more efficiently. Our bodies are very adaptable and fluid in the changes they can make.
This is one reason why humans have been a favorite of evolutionary progress for so long. The ability to withstand cold is less to do with fundamental physiological differences in generating heat and maintaining body temperature than it is to do with how we perceive the temperatures to which we are exposed. Just because someone feels incredibly cold, it doesn’t mean that they are actually any colder than someone else who is quite comfortable at the same temperature. Their body core and extremity temperatures will likely be very similar.
The evidence for acclimatization in man is much less than in other animals as we take our microclimate with us usually in the form of clothing and housing or other shelter. (http://www. coolantarctica. com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/cold_acclimation_human. php). As we all know our bodies become acclimated to the ambient temperatures we encounter. Just think about how warm it will feel in the spring while. Temperatures of 50 degrees will feel comfortable, but fast forward to September and we will be reaching for jackets to keep warm. The same goes for the variances we will find in temperatures from south to north in the winter.
Here in the Erie, PA area, the average high temperature in January is just over 31 degrees, while in upper Michigan, the average is 25 degrees. When you look at the average low temperatures, the difference really comes in. The average low in the Erie area in January is 18 degrees, while in upper Michigan, it drops to 5 degrees. So if you are not better acclimated to the winter temperatures that low of 5 degrees is going to feel pretty cold. What I have made a habit of doing over the years is to force my acclimatization to the cold two weeks before I head out to colder areas.
I picked this up some years ago from a climber/researcher who would work in his lab wearing shorts and a T-shirt for a month before heading on a climbing expedition. His lab was a cold room held at 40 degrees. I don’t go to those extremes but I do walk around my house for a couple weeks wearing shorts and a T-shirt as my wife keeps warm with a sweater. The point is that I work at getting used to the cold and once I am there it is easy to keep my body acclimated. (http://www. examiner. com/article/cold-weather-acclimatization-a-plus-for-winter-activities). So there we have it! Much of acclimation concerns perception; especially to cold.
Heat on the other hand requires much more conditioning and actively working for physiological adaptations. I am currently walking in the heat of our days getting ready for my move the North Carolina in August. You can make the changes described above in your own life through the simple tips I have detailed. It is a completely achievable goal. You can be more comfortable, work and play more efficiently and adjust to extreme temperatures. We actually can do something about the weather! Mark twain would be amazed at this fact and many others that science has shown us in our modern age.