The signs you may be vulnerable to heat-related symptoms on holiday

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - AUGUST 05: People setting by Le Vieux Port in Marseille city center on August 05, 2023, as a heatwave continues across northern Europe, with wildfires breaking out in northern Scandanavia and Greece. (Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People in Marseilles enjoy the summer heat (Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Several tourists have gone missing on Greek islands in recent days and six others have already died in the extreme heatwave in European resorts this summer.

The death of health and diet guru Michael Mosley highlighted the risks of the searing heatwave currently engulfing many European resorts, with the unusual June weather seeing temperatures soar to above 40C in many areas.

So who is most at risk from health problems in soaring temperatures? Yahoo News spoke to GP Dr Angela Rai at the London General Practice.

You are most vulnerable to extreme heat just after you have arrived in a hot country, Dr Rai said.

Dr Rai explained that people are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke just after arrival, with vulnerability driven by, "sudden changes in temperature such as a heat wave or sudden exposure to a much hotter temperature than you are used to such as travelling to holidays.

A helicopter flying over the hills in Pedi, Symi, Greece, where a search and rescue operation is under way for TV doctor and columnist Michael Mosley, after he went missing while on holiday. Police and firefighters have been using drones to scour the island, which is part of the Dodecanese island chain and is about 25 miles north of Rhodes. Picture date: Saturday June 8, 2024. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
A helicopter flying over the hills in Pedi, Symi, Greece as part of the search for health guru Dr Michael Mosley (Getty Images) (Yui Mok - PA Images via Getty Images)

"You are more susceptible to heat-related illness as It may take a few days or weeks to acclimatise to the hotter temperature."

Dr Rai said: "Adults older than 65 years are more vulnerable to the effects of heat. This is because they will find it harder to stay hydrated and will adjust to heat slower than other people.

"The regulation of temperature is a critical function of the central nervous system, this is not as well developed in the very young and starts to deteriorate in older age, which makes the body less able to cope in extreme temperatures."

Like older people, babies and young children are less able to regulate temperature, which makes them vulnerable to extreme heat, Dr Rai explains.

Dr Rai said: "Infants and very young children also have a higher surface area to mass ratio and will absorb heat more readily.

"They may not be able to remove themselves from hot environments as easily. (e,g. a baby in a hot car in a car seat)."

Certain medicines can affect your body’s ability to regulate heat, or affect your ability to cool down by sweating, Dr Rai warned.

She said: "Medication such as blood pressure tablets, diuretics, antidepressants and stimulants such as medication for ADHD all affect the body’s ability to stay hydrated.

"Medication can affect: thermoregulation, water and electrolyte balance, reduced sensation of thirst, impaired sweating and reduced blood vessel dilatation which impairs ability to dissipate heat."

People with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart, lung and kidney disease may be more vulnerable in the heat, Dr Rai explained.

She said: "People with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes may feel the heat more than people without diabetes and extreme heat can be dangerous. High temperatures cause dehydration and will affect glucose levels and how the body uses insulin.

"Diabetic complications such as nerve damage or damage to blood vessels can affect the way the body handles heat and the body may not be able to cool down as effectively. This can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke and are medical emergencies."

People with kidney problems may be at particular risk, Dr Rai said.

She said: "With dehydration blood pressure will drop and kidney function decreases. Metabolic function and kidney function will be affected in severe heat illness and can lead to kidney failure. Those with kidney disease therefore are more susceptible to heat-related illness. However, even healthy adults can develop heat-induced kidney problems."

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