In India, summers are merciless. While the nature of the heat is different — in the northern part of the country it is dry, and in the south, there’s more humidity — it can leave people feeling intensely uncomfortable. In some cases, heat can be fatal, too.
And while the country is already struggling to contain the spread of the COVID-19 infection, heat waves can pose an added problem, if not taken care of.
Dr Sanjay Shah, general physician, Fortis Hospital Mulund, says extreme heat can “result in increased hospitalisations for heat-related illnesses, as well as cardiovascular distress, brain stroke and respiratory disorders”.
“Extreme heat events can also trigger a ‘heat stroke’, which is a serious disorder. It means body temperatures of more than 104F, due to hot environmental conditions. It occurs when the body is unable to modulate its temperature. Here, the body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down. Heat waves generally lead to confusion, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. This condition can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not made available,” says Dr Shah.
Some essential tips to tackle this
1. Keep yourself hydrated: Always carry a bottle of water when outdoors. Make sure you drink plenty of water and fresh juices to give your body the extra hydration it needs to make it through the hot days. You can also carry some glucose water for instant energy. If your doctor limits your fluid intake for medical reasons, check how much water can be consumed during hot weather. Avoid alcoholic, hot, or sugary drinks including tea and coffee (they can make dehydration worse).
2. Have seasonal fruits, vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables like mangoes, watermelons, cucumbers, green leafy veggies go a long way in keeping you hydrated, while providing the much-needed vitamins and minerals. These are not only easy to digest, but will also give your hydration levels a boost.
3. Carry an umbrella whenever you are out: Make sure you carry an umbrella to shield yourself from the harsh rays of the sun.
4. Shower twice a day: Bathing helps in bringing down the body temperature. It is best to bathe with lukewarm water; studies suggest taking a cold shower may actually switch you into ‘heat preservation’ mode.
How to manage heat-related distress
* Know whom to call if you need help — doctors, civic authorities, etc.
* Follow your doctor’s advice if you have any medical conditions.
* If you feel unwell, seek medical aid at your nearest hospital.
* Avoid stepping out in the afternoon; prefer wearing loose cotton clothes (preferably in lighter colors).
* After you return home, have a cold refreshing drink — like lemonade, buttermilk, coconut water or just plain water.
After the heat-related distress has passed,
– Continue to drink plenty of fluids.
– Continue eating fruits and veggies as a healthy diet.
– Take time to rest and recover as coping with extremely hot weather can be very tiring.
– Go to your doctor if you feel unwell after the episode.