How To Reduce Body Heat 101

Sep 16, 2022 Healthy Lifestyle Tips

How To Reduce Body Heat 101

Quick Health Scoop

  • Heat illnesses—where extreme heat raises your body’s core temperature—can range from mild (heat rash) to even life-threatening (heat stroke) illnesses.
  • Symptoms of heat illnesses can include nausea, dizziness, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, weak pulse, and confusion.
  • A variety of factors can cause heat illnesses, such as illness, hot weather, clothing, food, beverages, alcohol, medication, and more.
  • Tips for how to reduce body heat include hydrating, taking a cool bath, dressing appropriately, getting in a cool environment, and eating cooling foods.

Imagine cutting the grass in sweltering heat for an hour or two. You forget to bring water with you, the sun is blazing, and you just want to get the chore done. So, you push ahead, ignoring signs that you’re getting overheated. But did you know that every year more than 700 people die from extreme heat in the United States? [1]

While experts generally say the average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), body temperature can actually vary widely—ranging from 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C)—depending on the individual, age, activity, and even time of day. [2]

But increased body temperature is not something you should take lightly, as excessive body heat can be life threatening.

What can you do to keep yourself cool? Keep reading for trusted tips and tricks on how to reduce body heat.

Body Heat Symptoms

When you overheat, you’ve got an abnormally high body temperature (technically called hyperthermia). This happens when your body produces more heat than it releases. [3] Because you can prevent heat-related illness, you should know what the symptoms of extreme body heat look like. Heat-related illnesses can range from mild to life-threatening and include: [3,4]

Heat rash

This skin irritation (common in young children) is caused by excessive sweating and looks like small, red blisters often found on the neck, chest, groin, or crease of elbow.

Sunburn

After spending too much time outside without sunscreen, this heat illness shows up as red, warm, painful skin that can blister in extreme cases.

Heat cramps

Usually showing up in your abdomen or extremities, these muscle pains or spasms often occur during intensive exercise accompanied by heavy sweating.

Heat stress 

This can happen if your job (such as construction workers and firefighters) demands that you work in hot conditions, and it can lead to more serious symptoms, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion

This heat illness can occur after spending extended time in a high temperature and having inadequate fluid intake. If you don’t treat heat exhaustion, it can lead to heat stroke. Symptoms include:

  • excessive sweating
  • cold, clammy skin
  • rapid breathing
  • nausea or vomiting
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • fast, weak pulse

Heat stroke

This life-threatening illness occurs when you’ve got a high body temperature of 103 °F or higher. Seek immediate medical attention if you see or experience these symptoms, which include:

  • hot, dry skin
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • passing out

11 Factors That Cause Your Body Temperature To Rise

A variety of factors can cause heat related illnesses, where extreme heat raises your body’s core temperature to the point of illness. [5,6]

  1. Hot, humid weather. Summer heat, especially paired with high humidity, can raise your core body temperature. If you’re engaged in physical activity or you’re out in direct sunlight, this can have a greater impact on your body heat. When the humidity looms high (think 60% or higher), your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and your body can’t release heat as fast as it needs to.
  1. Clothing. If you wear clothes that are tight-fitting, dark-colored and/or made of synthetic fabrics (like spandex or nylon), they can absorb heat and/or trap moisture and not allow your body to cool down.
  1. Hot showers. Taking a hot shower can raise your body temperature, and the longer you’re in the shower, the more impact it can have.
  1. Food and Drink. Whether you eat hot food (like a bowl of soup) or spicy food (like a stuffed poblano pepper), what you consume can alter your body temperature. Ditto if you drink a hot beverage or a caffeinated drink both can increase body temperature.
  1. Alcohol. Consuming alcohol can impact your body's ability to regulate temperature.
  1. Drugs. Certain medications (like antibiotics, antihistamines, antipsychotics, beta blockers, and diuretics) can cause high body temperatures.[9]
  1. Gender. Although men and women have nearly the same core body temperatures, women tend to find slightly warmer environments a bit more comfortable than men do. It has something to do with hormones and metabolic rate, since men typically have increased muscle mass and higher metabolic rates.[10]
  1. Age. The youngest (babies and children under four) and oldest (65 and older) are most at risk of heat exhaustion. Why? Younger children’s ability to regulate body temperature isn't fully developed yet, and older adults’ ability may be lowered by medications or illness.[11,12]
  1. Weight gain and obesity. When you lose weight, you might see a decrease in average body temperature (thanks to less calorie intake and reduced metabolic rate). But if you regain the weight, you might see your body temperature increase again. And being obese can impact your body's ability to self-regulate body temperature, causing increased heat retention.[11]
  1. Pregnancy. In the early weeks of pregnancy, many women feel warmer than usual due to hormonal changes, higher blood volume, and other physiological changes.
  1. Stress. If you’re dealing with major emotional incidents, or ongoing chronic stress, this can lead to increased body temperature. This is probably because of your body’s inability to efficiently regulate the “fight or flight” stress response.[13]

6 Ways To Reduce Body Heat

To prevent overheating, try these tips on how to reduce body heat. [3,4,7]

  1. If you’re outside, take periodic breaks (in the shade or indoors) to rest. If you’re feeling overheated, stop any further physical activity and get some rest, preferably indoors.
  1. Cool environment. If you’re outside in the sun, get in the shade. If you can, move indoors in air-conditioning or a cool, well-ventilated environment as soon as you can.
  2. Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water can keep you hydrated as you lose body fluids through perspiration. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to amp up the flavor and boost your Vitamin C intake. Coconut water and sports drinks can also help replace lost electrolytes.
  1. Cool bath, compress, or foot bath. Immerse yourself in cool water, whether that’s a cool bath or a dip in the pool. Even a cool, wet compress, a cold foot bath, or mists of cool water can help bring down body temperatures.
  1. Proper clothing. By wearing loose, light-colored, lightweight clothing in natural, breathable fabrics (like cotton or linen), they allow moisture to evaporate quicker and enable your skin to cool. If you’ll be out in the sun, wear a wide-brim hat and sunglasses to keep cool (and protect yourself from harmful UVB rays). Also, some athletic clothing are now made from cutting-edge, moisture-wicking fabrics to help keep you cool while exercising.
  1. Body-cooling foods. Certain foods producing a cooling effect, either due to their ingredients (like the menthol in mint leaves) or the high water content (like watermelon). Try these foods when feeling hot: [8]
  • Certain herbs and spices (such as mint, cinnamon, and cardamom)
  • Vitamin C-rich foods (like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons)
  • High-water content foods (such as cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes)

When To See A Doctor

If symptoms get worse or fail to improve , get medical help. If you (or someone else) exhibit signs of heat exhaustion, get immediate medical attention—especially with symptoms of confusion, loss of consciousness, or inability to drink. This requires urgent medical attention if your core body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. [6]

Bottom Line

When extreme heat raises your body’s core temperature, this can cause heat illnesses such as heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Symptoms of heat illnesses can include nausea, dizziness, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, weak pulse, and confusion. Many factors can alter your body temperature and lead to heat illnesses, such as illness, hot weather, clothing, food, drinks, alcohol, and medication. Tips for how to reduce body heat include hydrating, taking a cool bath, dressing appropriately, getting in a cool environment, and eating cooling foods.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information. 

References 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather.” July 18, 2022. Accessed on: August 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/extremeheat/
  2. “Body temperature norms.” 2022. Accessed on: August 25, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001982.htm
  3. Cleveland Clinic. “Hyperthermia.” November 19, 2021. Accessed on: August 25, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22111-hyperthermia
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness.” September 1, 2017. Accessed on: August 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html
  5. Unity Health Point. “Average Body Temperature: What's Normal & How to Read It.” July 10, 2020. Accessed on: August 26, 2022. https://www.unitypoint.org/article.aspx?id=709e49a3-495e-4f18-b51e-fe38b791acbb
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Heat Exhaustion.” July 1, 2021. Accessed on: August 26, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250
  7. Cleveland Clinic. “Heat Illness.” April 1, 2021. Accessed on: August 26, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16425-heat-illness#symptoms-and-causes
  8. Kaiser Permanente. “Keeping cool: 6 foods that help.” July 19, 2018. Accessed on: August 26, 2022. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/total-health/food-for-health/food-for-thought/keeping-cool-6-foods-that-help
  9. Cuddy ML. The effects of drugs on thermoregulation. AACN Clin Issues. 2004;15(2):238-253.
  10. Yanovich, R., Ketko, I., Charkoudian, N. Sex Differences in Human Thermoregulation: Relevance for 2020 and Beyond. 15 Apr 2020. https://doi.org/10.1152/physiol.00035.2019 doi:10.1097/00044067-200404000-00010
  11. Kenny GP, Yardley J, Brown C, Sigal RJ, Jay O. Heat stress in older individuals and patients with common chronic diseases. CMAJ. 2010;182(10):1053-1060. doi:10.1503/cmaj.081050
  12. Scientific American. Heat Waves Affect Children Severely. August 5, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/heat-waves-affect-children-more-severely/
  13. The American Institute of Stress. Yes, stress can cause a fever — here’s how to tell if you have a psychogenic fever. October 15, 2020. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.stress.org/yes-stress-can-cause-a-fever-heres-how-to-tell-if-you-have-a-psychogenic-fever

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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