Heat can kill by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Under normal conditions, the body's internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Elderly people, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to become victims of extreme heat. Because men sweat more than women, they are more susceptible to heat illness because they become more quickly dehydrated.
The duration of excessive heat plays an important role in how people are affected by a heat wave. Studies have shown that a significant rise in heat-related illnesses happens when excessive heat lasts more than 2 days. Spending at least two hours per day in air conditioning significantly cuts down on the number of heat-related illnesses.