This summer is shaping up to be a hot one, and as Louisville summers usually go, a humid one too. High humidity isn’t just annoying, it can be dangerous as well.
Humidity measures the amount of water in the air. Normal humidity levels are between 30%-60%, when humidity levels rise above that, you start to feel uncomfortable. Humidity affects the way we feel temperature much like wind chill does in the winter. It is important to check the humidity, not just the temperature, when planning outdoor activities in the summer.
When humidity levels rise, the body cannot cool down in its regular way. Normally, the body sweats to cool itself and the sweat evaporates, making you feel less hot. When the humidity is high, the sweat cannot evaporate off the body which makes you feel hot and sticky.
Allergens like mold, mildew and dust mites thrive in humid conditions. The more they grow, the worse allergies and asthma can get. While we cannot control the humidity levels outside, you can help manage them inside. If you find that the humidity levels in your home are high, try getting a de-humidifier. Those with severe allergies and asthma should strongly consider this if there allergies are bothersome indoors.
High humidity levels outdoors can lead to a handful of health issues including heat cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. While many of these can be relieved by cooling down, cases of heat exhaustion may require medial treatment, and all cases of heat stroke should be treated by a medical professional immediately. In some cases heat stroke can be fatal.
Heat cramps usually happen shortly after going outside and most common in the legs. Fainting is caused by a quick drop on blood pressure. Both of these can be fixed by taking a break and cooling down.
Heat exhaustion is classified by dizziness or weakness, and an increasing body temperature. While this could require hospitalization (especially in young children or the elderly) drinking plenty of water, and fining a cool place to rest can help. Heat exhaustion usually happens several days after a heat wave, not within the first hours or day.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous. When someone is experiencing heat stroke their body temperature rises above 105°. People suffering from heat stroke may be lethargic, confused or lose consciousness. If you see these symptoms in someone it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
The most important thing to do when humidity is high is to stay inside and in places when you can stay cool. If you have allergies or asthma, always check temperature and humidity levels before taking part in outdoor activities. If you believe someone is suffering from heat stroke, the best thing to do is call 911.