Monday, February 19, 2018 by David Williams
If you find it difficult to do your job at your cozy little workspace, with all of the conveniences that your management affords you whenever you have the slightest of fevers: imagine how hard astronauts who are working out in space have it. It has been known for quite some time that astronauts go through what can only be described as a “space fever” based on certain conditions out in space, and now a new study has finally taken a good look at the data available to see what’s going on.
According to a report on the study, which looks at long-term space missions and their effects on the bodies of astronauts, weightlessness in outer space evidently causes an increase in body temperature of about one degree Celsius. That may not seem like much at first glance, but that is a significant increase considering that it happens even while the body is at rest. As long as the astronaut is out in space and experiencing weightlessness, it appears that the body’s core temperature increases by at least one degree.
It’s not an instant thing that automatically happens as soon as the astronaut leaves the Earth’s atmosphere, of course. It is said to be a gradual change that occurs after about two and a half months out in space. Although the temperature change is small, it is said to cause certain negative effects such as impaired physical performance and even mental capability. Finding out the main reason for this phenomenon as well as how to stop it from happening in the future will be beneficial for planned space flights for far-flung destinations such as Mars or the asteroid belt.
According to the researchers, it’s important to recognize the existence of the condition for the sake of astronauts who may be at risk for further complications. “This space fever, as we may call it, has potential implications for long-term space flights in terms of astronauts’ health, well-being, and support,” they said. They further added that the implications of the study and its results might have future effects on the evolutionary ability of humans to adapt to climate change.
The researchers noted that the existence of space fever had been mentioned previously by Russian astronauts, saying, “This is in line with anecdotal evidence from cosmonauts complaining about thermal discomfort.”
Exactly what happens with astronauts out in space when their core body temperature changes by at least one degree? Apart from the reduced cognitive abilities, the mere fact that their bodies find it that much harder to eliminate excess heat is seen as detrimental to their overall health. Evidently, the low-gravity environment makes it harder for sweat to evaporate easily, which is why body heat temperature rises in the first place.
In concluding their study, the researchers said that their findings could even have implications for humans who are living on Earth — those who will never even venture out into space. More specifically, they said, “Our results also raise questions about the evolution of our optimum core body temperature: how it has already adapted, and how it will continue to adapt to climate changes on Earth.”
In light of the changes that are happening, and could happen, in the environment, this new study might offer insights that prove important in the future.
Find out more space-related medical news on Space.news.