Many parts of India have been experiencing a sudden rise in temperature. The increasing temperature may lead to heatstroke or heat exhaustion. Here are some tips to deal with it.
Currently, temperatures in some parts of India are incessantly rising and have begun to cross 40 degrees Celsius, with even higher temperatures anticipated this summer, with March being India`s hottest month in 122 years as declared by the Indian Meteorological Department.
The dangerous combination of heat and, on cloudy days, humidity, is sapping the strength of an individual, resulting in heatstroke, exhaustion, cramps, and prickly heat. Besides being detrimental to health, environmental heat stress can also decrease productivity and work output. Over the years, a sharp rise in climate change has led to an increasing frequency of heatwaves the world over, with vulnerable demographics such as the elderly and younger children being most affected by heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion causes the body to get dehydrated very quickly and lose excess amounts of water and salt, typically from sweating, thus draining a person's energy completely. Some of the warning signs of the effects of heat exhaustion include dizziness, giddiness, weakness, fatigue, irritability, personality changes, headaches, and high body temperature while excessive thirst may or may not be present. Leaving heat exhaustion untreated for an extended period can also lead to heatstroke, which is far more severe and requires immediate medical attention to prevent complications. Heatstroke symptoms to watch out for are confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, seizures and a very high body temperature.
Precautions To Keep In Mind
- Avoid going outdoors in the sun, especially between 11 AM in the morning and 4 PM in the afternoon.
- Drink water (preferably cool, and not cold), as often as possible to stay hydrated even if not thirsty. Do not drink cold or very cold water, instead normalise it with room temperature water and then drink the water.
- If you are indulging in any physical exertion outdoors in the daytime, consume water beforehand and during, and drink sweet and salted nimbu pani, shikanji, panna, or any seasonal traditional cooling drink.
- Wear light-coloured and loose-fitting cotton clothes; with cotton vests or chemises under your clothes.
- Use sunglasses, umbrellas, cap/hat, while going outdoors in the sun.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee, and carbonated soft drinks, these do not benefit the body as they act as diuretics and cause dehydration faster, hence should be avoided especially in the summer. Alternatively, have fresh juices, nimbu paani, sharbat, etc. that can keep the body hydrated.
- Do not leave children or pets in parked vehicles, even with windows rolled down.
- One must also keep in mind that with age, you need to consciously take even more care of yourself. As people age, the bodies' ability to cool decreases, and older adults often take medication that further impairs this ability, hence it is even more important to be mindful of your health as you grow older.
- Keep your home cool by using curtains, sunshades, etc. to keep the direct sunlight out and keep windows open at night.
- Bathe in cool water, at least once a day.
- If you feel unwell or encounter someone having symptoms of a heat stroke-like, increased heart rate, heavy or rapid breathing, dizziness and nausea, muscle cramps, or losing consciousness, consult a doctor without delay for evaluation and treatment.
In case of emergencies, the following first aid may be employed:
The immediate aim is to lower the body temperature of the heat-affected person at the earliest, and then seek medical aid by evacuating the patient to a healthcare facility.
It is essential to shift the patient to a shaded area or even indoors, and, if conscious, to give plenty of oral fluids in the form of sips of cool water and salty-sweet lime juice. If the person is unconscious, remove/loosen clothing and cover with a wet sheet while fanning vigorously, to lower the body temperature, and, thereafter, arrange for a prompt evacuation to the nearest healthcare facility.
Source: The article is contributed by Col (Dr) MP Cariappa, Technical Advisor, Health Initiatives, Tata Trusts on thehealthsite.com