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Trading Temperature Extremes

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This article is surprisingly informative, explaining:

  • what extreme sudden changes in climate can do to your body
  • how to prevent the negative effects

If you live in a country that gets cold, winter travel may bring a hazard to your health. You may find the result of extreme temperature changes on your body interesting. It also will help you prepare better to avoid shocking your body while traveling.


This Beach is Shocking 

Something you may not have thought about before is that going from a very cold to a very hot climate can put your body into shock. This is known as “heat syncope.”

An example of this is when my wife and I traveled from Calgary, Canada to Nairobi, Kenya. While visiting Calgary, we worked with some friends building a deck outside. It was 40 degrees below 0. So cold you can feel your frozen nose hairs colliding when you breathe. A day later we arrived in Nairobi and attended an open air funeral. With no shade from the sun, and a 40C (104F) temperature, my wife’s young, strong body went into shock. She swooned away, losing her hearing temporarily and wasn’t able to see properly. She was helped to a shaded area to lie down and gradually recovered. After spending several weeks in Africa, we return to Canada, still winter, still minus 40. We again did some more work outside. The same thing happened! The crazy fainting episode repeated itself.

A similar experience of heat syncope has happened to others travelling in the winter from Canada and other cold countries to a tropical destination. Many experiencing this will faint completely. It shows that our bodies are not meant for extreme variations in temperature in such a short period of time.

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What You May Be Able to Do About It 

Your body needs to time to get accustomed. So, avoid extreme cold before you head somewhere spicy. If you are planning on hiking or lots of walking on your vacation, exercise inside where it is warm, for an hour or so the few days before you go to acclimatize your body to exercising in the heat. And when you arrive, stay away from constant direct sunlight for a while, just until your body somewhat acclimatizes to the warmth. I guess if you’re sun-bathing and you faint from the heat, at least you’re lying down already. But if you end up dying on the lounging chair with your sunglasses on, how long before someone realizes you’re dead?

Imitate the locals customs of “siestas” in the heat of the day, avoiding being in the sun or exercising at these times. Continue exercising for an hour or so when you arrive, but be careful not to schedule rigorous activities for long durations soon after you arrive. Drink lots. Of water, that is. Full acclimatization is supposed to take 10 days, and that’s only if you are exercising in the heat 1-2 hours daily. So if your trip is short, recognize full acclimatization may not happen.

Protect yourself and play safe. A message from the government of someplace. (Under Prevention of Heat Disorders/Heat Acclimatization)

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