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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Staying Healthy and Safe in the Hot Weather

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With the rise in temperature and the issues of global warming, staying cool is no longer just about comfort but is now a necessity. There are heat-related illnesses and diseases linked with dangerously high temperature and you need to stay cool to avoid them.

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These illnesses range from heat cramps, to heat exhaustion and heat strokes. Take measures to keep cool and stay hydrated. Some of these illnesses result if your body can’t compensate for the heat and cool you off, but there is only so much the body can do on its own. You have to assist it. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  • Avoid the heat: the hottest time of the day is approximately between 11am and 3pm. Its advised to stay out of the sun at this time if you can, especially if you are vulnerable to the effects of the heat.
  • Have cool baths or showers.
  • Stay hydrated: drink lots of water, diluted fruit juice and sports drink to keep you hydrated and replace lost ions. Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer so that they get frozen. When heading out, grab one so that it stays cool for a longer time and you have water with you on the go. Do not wait till you are thirsty to drink water as thirst is a sign of dehydration. Avoid caffeine, excess alcohol and drinks high in sugar as they cause dehydration.
  • Wear light weight, loose fitting clothes, preferably of a light colour as dark colours absorb sun rays. Cotton clothing will keep you cooler than many synthetics. Wear hats and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
  • If it is hotter outside, shut windows and pull-down shades. Use shades or reflective materials outside the window to keep the room cooler. You could also use light coloured curtains and keep them closed. Identify the coolest room in the house so that you could keep cool there if things get worse.
  • Make use of your air conditioners and fans in the house. If you don’t have air conditioning, look for public places that may have or may be cooler and arrange to spend time there. Fans can help circulate air and make you feel cooler even in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Try eating lighter meals or snacks and cold fruits as well as less dairy products. Eat food rich in fiber and natural juice. Reduce your protein intake as it produces more body heat. On a plus side, you would not have to spend so much time next to a stove.
  • Try storing lotions in the fridge to use on hot, tired, feet.
  • Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in the vehicle. The temperature in the car can rise quickly.
  • Use a damp clothing to wipe your face.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous exercises during the hottest time of the day. Alter your pattern of outdoor exercise to take advantage of cooler weather and avoid staying in the heat. If you can’t adjust your time for working out, spend fewer minutes and do less strenuous exercises.

If you try doing some things mentioned above, you will assist your body in cooling itself down. The main things affecting your body’s ability to cool itself down are:

Humidity: sweating is the body’s mechanism of keeping cool. When the humidity is high, sweat wont evaporate as quickly as it should and your body won’t be able to release heat as fast as it may need to.

Personal factors: some people are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses as some factors determine whether a person can cool off in very hot weathers. Some of them are:

  1. Older people. Especially those above 75.
  2. People with serious mental health problems.
  3. People taking specific medications as some medications affect sweat and temperature control.
  4. People who abuse drugs and alcohol.
  5. People with heart or breathing problems, and other serious chronic conditions.
  6. Babies and younger children.
  7. Physically active people like laborers or those doing sports.
  8. People with mobility problems.

Heat Illnesses, Symptoms and First Aid Treatments:

Some heat related disorders and illnesses common with very hot weathers are listed below with first aid treatments to be carried out in the event that they occur.

Heat Exhaustion

This is the body’s response to dehydration, that is, the loss of body water and salt mostly through sweating. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

  1. Excessive sweating
  2. Muscle cramps.
  3. Flushed complexion.
  4. Weakness or fatigue.
  5. Dizziness and/confusion.
  6. Clammy skin.

First aid treatment: if someone shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, move them to a cooler place first. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet, clothes or towel of the skin or spray the person with water.

Fan the person. If conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits, or begins to lose consciousness, call a local emergency number or rush the person to the hospital.

Heat stroke

This occurs when the body no longer sweats and the body temperature reaches dangerously high levels. Symptoms include:

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  1. Dry, hot, reddish skin.
  2. Lack of sweating.
  3. Chills.
  4. Confusion.
  5. Strong and rapid pulse.
  6. Slurred speech.

First aid treatment: heat stroke can be life threatening. Call a local emergency number first. Move the person to a cooler place and immerse the person up to the neck in cool water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice until the arrival of an ambulance.

You can choose to rush the person to the nearest hospital instead. In which case, douse and spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold wet towels when in the vehicle.

Heat cramps

these are painful cramps in the muscles. This is caused by excessive sweating as excessive sweating leads to low salt levels. Low salt levels cause heat cramps. Symptoms include:

i. Muscle pain usually in the abdomen, arm or legs.
ii. Muscle spasm usually in the abdomen, arms or legs.

First aid treatment: if someone is experiencing heat cramp in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest and lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish their fluids with half glass of water every 15 minutes.

Heat rash

irritation of the skin caused by excessive sweating: symptoms of heat rash include:

  1. Red cluster of pimples or small blisters
  2. Usually on the neck and upper chest, elbow creases, under the breasts and the groin area.

First aid treatment: apply rash powders and ointments. The affected person should bathe with only cool water.

In very hot weathers or in the event of a heat wave, check up on your neighbors, friends, and pets. Especially, those more prone to heat-related illnesses.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Asmau Mohammed
I am a medical student and I love discussing all things health related. I also love being a health or lifestyle coach.
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