Categories: General Health

How to survive a heatwave

Heatwaves are becoming a primary cause of weather-related morbidity and mortality. Heatwaves are a span of uncomfortably and extremely hot or humid weather that exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5 degrees Celsius. The intensity of a heatwave depends on the weather in the area and the average temperatures for the season. It lasts for a few days to weeks. The heatwave period has blazing hot weather in dry states, but in oceanic-climate areas, it accompanies by high humidity.

With the global warning situation, these heatwaves are becoming more intense with hotter temperatures, which last longer than usual and occur frequently. An extremely-hot climate causes many health issues and worsens pre-existing health problems. It poses a threat to children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of a heatwave?

With this scorching heat, heat-related problems become more common. With too much exposure to heat, many people suffer from heat exhaustion. It includes:

  • Overheating or high temperature of the body
  • Heavy sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Muscle aches or cramps
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Irritated and altered mental behavior

Continuous or prolonged heat exposure can worsen the symptoms of former chronic diseases and mental issues.

How to defeat a heatwave?

Defeating heat waves is challenging. Many people do not have air conditioners, so surviving in the intense hot climate can be difficult. The following tips can help you keep safe during a heatwave:

  • Proper air circulation in your home or workplace: Ceiling fans or exhaust air system promotes air circulation in our home, as continuous hot air stuck in one place worsens the heat impact on hotter days. When outside air loses heat (in the evening, night, or early morning), open the windows to cool inside the house. During the day, close all windows and curtains to keep the inside cool.
  • Avoid staying top floor of the house: As the top floor of the house becomes very warm during the scorching heat day, move to the lower floor or basement in summers.
  • Drink plenty of water: Water is one of the crucial elements against heatwaves. Sufficient water intake keeps us hydrated and protects us from hot temperatures. Always carry a drinking water bottle with you while traveling, going outdoors, or office.
  • Cold bath: Wet towels, shower, or bathing with cold water removes the heat effect. Soaking your feet in a cold water-filled bucket or basin after a stressful day in outdoor heat can immediately refreshes you from heat effects.
  • Refreshing beverages: Healthy fruit juices, coconut water, or chaach are beneficial in combat heat exhaustion. The summer-cooler drinks such as freshly squeezed orange juice, watermelon juice, lemon drink, buttermilk, or sweet lassi can keep us healthy. Do not consume alcohol and caffeine-rich beverages, such as tea, coffee, and caffeinated sodas, as they cause more dehydration.
  • Consume fresh fruits and vegetables: A healthy diet including various fruits, salads, and vegetables curbs the negative impact of heat and keeps us hydrated. Avoiding oily and fried food during summer decreases the risk of heatstroke and improves our health. Fresh seasonal fruits such as watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber, tomatoes, and leafy vegetables are a rich source of water and nutritious minerals.Do not eat a high proteinous diet, including red meat, as it can increase metabolic heat and body temperature.
  • Clothing: Loose-fitting and breathable clothes can help survive the heatwave. Linen and cotton are perfect cloth choices in summer. The lighter shades apparel is better during hot summer.
  • Sun protection: Avoid stepping out during peak heat hours (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), but if you have to go outdoor, carry an umbrella and wear a hat or scarves to protect yourself from the sun.Wear long sleeves shirts or cotton gloves and long pants to protect the skin of arms and legs from sun exposure.Always apply a good amount of sunscreen to block the harmful UV sun rays. Before going out or staying inside, apply sunscreen on the face, back of the neck, and other exposed body parts.

With these little modifications, we can fight the heatwave. Be aware of the symptoms of the heat-related issues, including heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat burn, and immediately contact your doctor for help. Till the aid comes, try to cool the victim by sponging them with wet towels. Take extra care of yourself not only during the heat waves period but throughout the entire summer season.

Dr. Gaurav Jain, Consultant – Internal MedicineDharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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