Can hot weather cause diarrhoea?


HOT weather can be lovely, but at times it get pretty uncomfortable, especially when it’s really humid.

But can it give you diarrhoea? Here’s all you need to know.

Can hot weather cause diarrhoea?

If you’ve had diarrhoea during the warm summer months, you may be wondering whether it’s caused long days of hot sunshine.

It may simply be a coincidence, though it could point to a more serious health condition, or mean that the weather is causing other issues to flare up.

Extended exposure to hot weather increases the risk of inflammatory bowel disease issues, as well as the risk of outbreaks of infectious gastroenteritis, the Metro reported.

According to a Swiss study published in 2013, these issues are both likely to cause diarrhoea for those who suffer them, which may explain the rise in instances of it during heatwaves.

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When the weather’s extremely hot, it can have a number of effects on our body, and sunburn is just one of them

This isn’t the only explanation however, and it’s important to check your symptoms as it could be a symptom of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

You can consult our explainer what causes diarrhoea and how to stop it for more information.

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You can find medical advice on how long you should stay home for if you have it, and how to help you avoid spreading the infection on the NHS website.

The NHS says you should get advice from 111 if:

  • You’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • Your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • A child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
  • You or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • You or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • You or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • You or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

How else does hot weather affect your body?

When the weather’s extremely hot, it can have a number of effects on our body, and sunburn is just one of them.

It’s important to check on and look after people who are most vulnerable during these periods, like older people, who are at highest risk of suffering heat exhaustion.

Sunburn

Sunburn can occur in less than 10 minutes, even if it’s not obvious immediately that it’s happened.

Every episode of sunburn raises the chances of skin cancer, as well as faster ageing skin.

Dr Kathryn Basford, of online doctors service ZAVA UK, told The Sun: “You can very easily burn in as little as 10 minutes, if you’re out in the sun and not properly protected from UV rays. 

“It can also present itself through the course of the day and take between 24 to 72 hours to develop.”

But it doesn’t just cause painful skin and blistering, it also affects your temperature.

Prof Mike Tipton, Human and Applied Physiology, University of Portsmouth, said: “Sunburn reduces sweating, which is an indirect problem in terms of impairing your thermo regulatory capabilities.”

The speed at which your skin reacts depends on whether you’re wearing any sun screen, what clothes you’re wearing, your complexion and how powerful the UV rays are.

Heat exhaustion

As we get hotter, our blood vessels open up, which lowers blood pressure.

This means the heart has to work harder in order to circulate blood, causing milder symptoms like swollen feat or heat rash.

It also affects our levels of fluids and salt through sweating, and alters the balance of them in our bodies.

When this is combined with decreased blood pressure, heat exhaustion can result.

The symptoms include nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, sweating, cool and clammy skin, irritability and confusion.

A key sign is body temperature going above 41C – which can occur within 10 to 15 minutes of being in hot weather, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion isn’t usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes, the NHS says.

This can be done by going to a cool place, lying down with your feet raised, drinking water and allowing the skin to cool.

But if someone doesn’t feel any better after 30 minutes, you should call 999.

This is a sign they have heatstroke, which is when the body is unable to control its temperature.

The symptoms of heatstroke include hot and dry skin, difficulty walking, poor balance, confusion, disorientation, and seizures (in severe cases). 

According to Dr Basford: “Similar to heat exhaustion, heatstroke can develop within minutes or gradually over the course of several hours or days. 

“While less common, heatstroke can be very serious if not addressed quickly.”

Dehydration

When it comes to having fun in the sun safely, hydration is hugely important – as it is outside of a heatwave!

Dehydration can be life-threatening, especially in older people, children and babies.

Dr Basford said: “When you’re out and about in the sun, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to up to a few hours for the body to feel dehydrated. 

“When exposed to the heat without properly hydrating your body, the water levels can fall low and you’ll experience waves of fatigue, thirst, light-headedness and sometimes dizziness. 

“Drinking water regularly can help you remain hydrated, as well as swerving those drinks that can dehydrate you further, like caffeine or alcohol.”

Dehydration can exacerbate and contribute to the issues mentioned above, so be aware of what your body needs to be taking in to keep you cool through sweating.

Prof Mike Tipton, Human and Applied Physiology, University of Portsmouth, told The Sun: “You need to sweat in order to maintain your body temperature, and that sweating is going to be impaired if you become dehydrated.”

Excess deaths due to stress on cardiovascular system

Prof Tipton said: “Over the course of a heatwave, there’ll be about 1,500 to 2,000 excess deaths, but very, very few of those deaths are caused by the direct effects of heating. 

“The majority of people that die by this route die within the first couple of days of a heatwave.”

“And the vast majority of those that die are over the age of 65 and their deaths are caused more by the stress that the heat puts on their cardiovascular system.”

When the body’s core temperature reaches dangerous levels, additional strain is added to what might be an already compromised cardiovascular system, heart, and blood vessels.

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According Prof Tipton, one of the other major causes of a heatwave related death is a blood clot, because dehydration causes the blood to thicken.

This can affect people with pre existing conditions, or those who are reasonably healthy but, because of age, their blood vessels aren’t as healthy as younger people.

How to protect yourself in the hot weather

To prevent sunburn, “sunscreen, sunglasses and a sunhat go some of the way”, said Dr Basford.

She added: “Staying out of the sun is the best way to protect yourself, particularly between the hours of 10am and 2pm.”

If you are showing signs of heat exhaustion, “lie down in a cool place, drink plenty of water and use cold compresses or spray your skin with cold water”, Dr Basford said.

“You should start to feel better within 30 minutes, if not, this could be heatstroke and you need to see a doctor urgently.”

Prof Tipton: “There are some obvious things one can do to mitigate the heat – like stay in the shade and don’t do any exercise.

“But right up there amongst them is staying hydrated.”

You should especially drink more water if you plan to exercise.

And make sure those who are more vulnerable to serious illness – such as the elderly and children – have easy access to water.





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