How to Prevent the Harmful Health Effects of Heat Waves?

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Introduction 

Warm weather is common in tropical countries, but extreme heat can be harmful to our health. There are more severe diseases and fatalities than usual during heat waves. It is recommended to stay safe if the summer has scorching temperatures.

Heatwaves, or extremely hot weather that might last for many days, can have a negative effect on society, including an increase in fatalities from exposure to the sun. 

Heat waves are among the most destructive natural disasters, but since their death tolls and destruction are not usually evident, they rarely receive the required attention.

Heatwaves can put a strain on emergency services, the health system, and the economy by increasing the demand for water, energy and transportation, which can lead to power outages or shortages. 

The essential things to do during a heat wave are

  • To prevent or decrease exposure
  • To effectively communicate dangers
  • To pay special attention to at-risk population groups
  • To manage mild and severe heat illness.

Heatwave 

A heat wave is a period of unusually high temperatures that are higher than the maximum temperature during summertime. 

Heat waves commonly occur between March and June in India, and in a few unusual instances, they can even last into July. Those who live in these places are negatively impacted by the excessive temperatures and accompanying climatic conditions because they cause physiological stress, which can occasionally result in death.

Heatwave refers to a prolonged period of unusually high temperatures and high humidity. Due to climate change, they are anticipated to increase in frequency and severity in the next years. 

Shock, dehydration and severe heat diseases can all occur in those exposed to heat waves. Heat waves can also make chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions worse.

Health effects of the heat waves 

Heat stroke 

Heat stroke occurs at a body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme temperature results in dry skin, confusion and occasionally unconsciousness, which are signs of a more severe case of heat stroke that needs medical intervention. 

In the absence of immediate medical attention, heat stroke can result in death or severe disability. Rapid cooling is the fastest method of preventing the onset of a heat stroke.

A very high body temperature, red, hot, and dry skin (without sweating), a quick, powerful pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness are signs that heat stroke may be developing. A person exhibiting these symptoms needs urgent medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion develops after several days of exposure to high temperatures and insufficient or uneven fluid replacement. This is a milder type of heat-related disease. Heat exhaustion is the body’s reaction to an excessive loss of salt and water from sweat. 

This usual response to intense heat can cause symptoms like dizziness, headaches and fainting. The elderly, those with high blood pressure and those who work or exercise in hot environments are most at risk for developing heat exhaustion.

Cool showers, air-conditioned rooms, rest and light clothing, are some steps that can help prevent heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps 

Heat cramps are a less severe type of heat-related disease. They are painful cramps and spasms of the muscles that happen during or after vigorous exercise and sweating in hot weather.

Heat cramps are also referred to as exercise-associated cramps. They are characterised by severe discomfort, protracted muscle spasms and high-intensity activity in athletes. Heat cramps are also known to occur in cool environments, including swimming and winter sports.

Adequate hydration can help avoid these cramps. Replacing lost fluids with water alone is sufficient for mild to moderate exertion when it is short-term (30 minutes or less). 

A suitable electrolyte-containing solution should be used as a fluid replacement when engaging in strenuous activity for longer periods of time or in an environment that is extremely hot and humid.

Cardiac conditions 

The heart, lungs and kidneys have to work harder in hot temperatures to maintain a normal body temperature, which puts an additional burden on them. This implies that if there is a heart issue, the risk of heart disease may increase. 

It is essential to stay cool and hydrated. One may compensate for the increased sweating by drinking plenty of fluids, which will also prevent the blood pressure from falling too low.

Kidney stones 

For individuals who work outside in the suffocating heat and who do not drink enough water, the calcium and other minerals concentrates form tiny stones in the kidney. A burning sensation while passing urine, excruciating stomach aches on either side, vomiting and blood in the urine are indications of this disease.

Kidney stones grow to a size of 5 mm to 7 mm over a period of six months to a year. But, dehydration due to the heat wave might speed up this process as acidic compounds in urine become more concentrated, forming crystals, which then harden into stones. 

Kidney stones are more common in the summer and occur at the rate of 10% to 15% due to dehydration.

Who is at risk? 

People older than 60 years 

Individuals who are 65 years or older may not be able to adequately compensate for heat stress and are less likely to notice and react to temperature changes.

Children or infants 

Children under the age of four are particularly at-risk of the effects of high temperatures and depend on others to control their settings and supply enough drinks.

People overexerting 

Overexerting oneself while working out or exercising increases the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.

Overweight people 

Overweight or obese individuals are more susceptible to heat-related diseases due to their tendency to hold onto more body heat.

How to protect against heatwaves? 

Drink fluids 

No matter how active a person is, one should increase their fluid intake when it’s hot outside.

Avoid delaying drinking until an individual is extremely thirsty. Drink 2-4 cups of liquids per hour while engaging in vigorous exercise in a warm area.

Avoid drinking beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar because they could make a person lose more fluid from the body. Avoid really cold beverages as well, as they may cause stomach pains.

Replenish salt and minerals. 

Salt and minerals are lost from the body during heavy sweating. They must be replenished. 2-4 cups of cool, non-alcoholic liquids every hour should be consumed while exercising. 

Salt and minerals lost through sweat can be replaced with a sports beverage before consuming a sports beverage or using salt tablets while following a low-sodium diet. Consulting a doctor is always best in such cases.

Wear right clothing 

Wear cotton clothing that is light, airy, loose and porous. While remaining outside in the sun, use sunglasses, an umbrella or hat, shoes or chappals.

Wear as little as possible while at home. Choose loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing that is lightweight. 

Sunburn reduces the body’s capacity to regulate its own temperature and results in fluid loss. Furthermore, it hurts and harms the skin.

Plan your activities accordingly

Try to keep the outdoor activities to the early morning and late evening. Try to take frequent breaks from activity in cool places to give the body’s thermostat a chance to heal.

Stay in cool indoor places. 

Keep the living area cool. While it’s still warm outdoors, shut the windows during the day and open them at night. 

Wear sunscreen

Avoid going outside in the sun, especially between noon and three o’clock. Never forget to use high-SPF sunscreen, even while not going outside and staying at home. 

Apply ample amounts of sunscreen to the hands, face, neck and body (all other areas that will be exposed). Avoid leaving the house immediately after applying sunscreen. Let it absorb into the skin for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

Eat fresh, nutritious foods.

Stay away from foods that are spoilt. Make sure to consume wholesome, light food. Include seasonal fruits, greens, and cucumbers in the diet. Also, stay away from foods high in protein.

One can sip on cool beverages like lassi, lemon water and chaas (buttermilk) to stave off the effects of the heat wave. If a person is feeling weak or worn out, they can also consume ORS (Oral rehydration solution).

Conclusion 

Since humans are adapted to the tropical climate, they can withstand heat well by dissipating it into the surrounding air through their skin. But, if the temperature exceeds the skin temperature or if sweat doesn’t dry off, we start to acquire a heat, and our body core temperature (the temperature of our deep body tissues) starts to rise. 

Areas prone to heat waves should create hot adaptation plans incorporating tools like cooling facilities for vulnerable communities to lower risk.

FAQs 

How can we reduce the effects of heat waves? 

Look for shade and take in lots of water. Keep the house cool by closing the windows at night and using sunshades, shutters or curtains. Make frequent use of fans, moist clothing and cold-water baths.

What are the preventive measures against heat waves? 

Even while not thirsty, make sure to drink enough water as often as possible. Wear cotton clothing that is light, airy, loose and permeable. While going outside in the sun, wear sunglasses, an umbrella or hat, shoes or chappals. When it’s hot outside, stay away from intense activity.

Can heat waves cause death? 

Heat waves can cause physiological stress, which may possibly be fatal. One can take preventive measures against the effects of the heat wave and guard against severe illness or death from heat stroke.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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