How Humidity Can Impact Blood Pressure

If you know anything about the summer season in Virginia, you know that it can feel like it’s as humid as a rainforest out there. During the summer months, the dew point averages out to about 62% in Roanoke and 68% in Lynchburg. Both cities are considered “muggy” from May through September, meaning that the average dew point is high enough to be noticeably humid.

If you’re from the South, the humidity is something you’re probably used to. But did you know that humidity can affect a person’s blood pressure, whether you’re accustomed to the humidity or not? In fact, the combination of high temperatures and high humidity levels can send someone’s blood pressure into dangerous territory.

How Humidity Impacts Blood Pressure

When a person’s body is in a warm and humid environment, their body pumps more blood to the skin (which is why we get red when we’re hot). This increase in blood flow causes your heart to beat faster than usual to keep your body cool. As Harvard Health states, your heart “may circulate two to four times as much blood each minute as it does on a cool day.”

It’s not easy for a person’s heart to deal with that increase in blood flow. It beats harder and harder, causing their blood pressure to rise. 

Overall, in the worst of circumstances, the heat and humidity can be dangerous as the heart tries to maintain appropriate body temperature. Not only is a person’s heart at risk, but sweating can lead to dehydration. All of this could result in a heat stroke where a person’s body gets to a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly leading to vital organ damage or even death.

What to Watch For

If you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms from being in a hot and humid environment, you should be concerned:

  • Confusion, agitation, or slurred speech
  • Sweating an amount that is either too much or not enough, given the circumstances
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing and racing heart rate
  • Headache
  • Dark urine
  • Muscle spasms or cramps

What You Can Do

In this scenario, first aid can be extremely helpful for keeping a person from having a heat stroke. The first thing to do is to remove the person from the environment that is causing the issue in the first place. Wherever you are, try to take the person inside to an air-conditioned building. If that is not possible, find some shade. Pour cold water on the back of the person’s neck and on their wrists, which helps cool off their body temperature. If the situation is bad enough, consider having the person get into a tub of cold (or even icy) water to lower their body temperature.

All of these treatments will help bring down their internal temperature and avoid long-term damage brought on by a heat stroke.

We’re Here to Help

At Home Instead Senior Care, our CAREGivers are trained to watch for signs of heat stress and help your loved one if the need arises. While we absolutely encourage physical activity for our clients, our CAREGivers are careful to take walks and do other outdoor activities in the cooler parts of summer days. Whatever your loved one needs, we’re here to help.