Exhaustion Heating up By Dr. David Hepburn

Dr. Dave Hepburn:

An enduring memory of my time in the Serengeti will be of the dainty Thompson gazelle, named after that renowned explorer Ernie (“Dainty”) Gazelle. Delicate, dainty and divinely delicious these speedsters of the Serengeti sport a nifty black Nike Swoosh on their flank indicating to all that they are amongst the fastest animals alive. Unfortunately, it is not as fast as the cheetah, for whom the Tommy (slang used by us rasta safarians) is the favourite fast food.

As was obviously the case with a cheetah we witnessed sneaking up on ten little Tommies grazing in the grazable grass, oblivious to the danger that slunkered two grassy grass knolls behind them. Then one, one grassy knoll. Suddenly a convulsing covey of guinea hens shot out from the grassy knoll screaming “Cheetah, cheetah, friggin’ freakin’ cheetah!!” The three brave males Tommies with their beautiful racks (not a term often used with reference to males) turned toward the threat.

They steadfastly lowered their heads towards the cheetah and really laid on the horn as if to say in a sort of dainty gazellish way. “Attack if you dare but you will need to pass these knives o’ death first there Charlie.” The cheetah, preferring not to deal with this formidable fortress of forking antlers, slunkerified off in the direction of some distant impalas, cheating us out of a deadly battle of blazing speed.

Now as fast as the gazelle is, I can actually run one down on a hot day. Gazelles, like women, don’t sweat and so when they run they quickly overheat and stop, drop and roll over. I sweat like a artesian well but subsequently I stay cooler and can then run up to the downed gazelle and say “you’re it” or “you’re dinner” depending on my mood.

So what is the difference between heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sun stroke, sun burn, Hepburn, Hepatitis and giraffes. Well, it is all about how well we watch our water. As long as we keep hydrated then we will perspire should our body temperature start to rise. When the external temperature exceeds that of our bodies we should sweat.

Sun heath- Dr. David Hepburn
Sun heath- Dr. David Hepburn

The cause of heat stroke comes not just from the heat but rather comes from not drinking, which will come as a pleasant surprise to my buddies down at the Drunken Scalpel. Lack of water means lack of ability to sweat which is why a heat stroke victim’s skin is actually dry to the touch. They ran out of water and so now are heating up internally, cooking important organs like the brain, kidneys and those rather delicate testicles.

Heat exhaustion refers to being somewhat overheated but still being able to sweat and may be a precursor to the more serious heat stroke, aka sunstroke. Stroke has a more serious connotation and means that as the body temperature climbs up past 40C the brain starts to cook and sizzle and not in a good way. But sweating can also be bad for those beasts who live in areas where there is no water, as sweating can, in fact, lead to dehydration.

Refreshing for the heat - Dr. Dave Hepburn
Refreshing for the heat – Dr. Dave Hepburn

So some of these amazingly adaptable animals like the oryx (yet another antelope, less dainty and no swooshes) can actually raise their internal body temperatures three degrees so that there is no external/internal temperature discrepancy and thus they don’t need to sweat. But we non-oryxes have a hard time doing this as we tend to lack the oryx gene and antlers and stuff, so we must drink fluids to allow us to sweat. “Which is better dad?” is a question I have seemingly been asked my entire parental life “a gazelle or an oryx?” In this case I have  decided that I would much rather be an oryx than a gazelle because an oryx is way cooler even though it is hotter. If only it had a swoosh. I suppose it could try to paint one on but then it would simply be… a cheetah.