With the current scenario of global warming, every summer is promising to be hotter than the preceding one. These abnormally high temperatures frequently result in heat wave especially in the North-Western and Central parts of India. At present, heat wave conditions are prevailing in pockets of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature of the particular region. Heat waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July. The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
How does heat wave affect our health?
Heat waves typically cause tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, increase in thirst, heavy sweating, muscle cramps, fall in blood pressure, rapid pulse, decrease in urination and dark coloured urine (darker than usual). In severe conditions, heat waves can result in dehydration (loss of body water), heat cramps and/or heat stroke. The signs and symptoms are as follows:
Heat Cramps: Edema (swelling) and syncope (fainting), muscle spams (cramps) generally accompanied by fever below 39ºC i.e.102ºF.
Heat Stoke: Body temperatures of 40ºC i.e. 104ºF or more along with delirium (state of confusion), seizures (convulsions or fits) or coma. This is a potential fatal condition
Severe heat wave conditions can result in physiological strain, which could even result in death.
How can we cope up with the effects of the heat wave?
Here are some tips which you should follow to protect yourself from the adverse effects of heat –
Water: Drink plenty of water. You don’t have to wait till you feel thirsty. Develop a habit of drinking at least a glass of water every 1 to 1 ½ hours.
If you have a desk job, keep the bottle of water right in front of you. If you have a field job or have to travel often, always carry water with you. Very often, people don’t want to carry bulky stuff with them therefore they think that they can buy water if required. Remember, you may not get potable (safe) bottled water everywhere you go. So, it is better to carry a bottle than to remain thirsty in the scorching heat. Even, if you are at home, you still need to drink ample water. The environmental temperature does increase the body temperature even if you don’t venture out.
Special care should be taken of elderly, children and sick individuals. Elderly may not recognize their thirst sensation or may forget to drink water or may be physically dependent on others. For most children, summers are vacation time! They are so engrossed in playing in sun that they may forget to eat food and drink water. Also, young children have greater body surface area per unit body weight. This makes them more susceptible to greater fluid losses in hot weather. During sickness, the body loses more water. Therefore, it is all the more important to replenish the losses during illness.
Buttermilk and curds: Buttermilk and/or curds in the form of chaas or lassi helps the body remain cool and also hydrates it.
Fresh juices: Fresh or tetra pack fruit juices can also be consumed to keep yourself well hydrated.
Fresh fruits: Fruits with high water content are considered to be coolants and provide great relief during hot weather. These include melons (watermelon, musk melon) and citrus fruits such as sweet lime, oranges, malta and lemon.
Cucumber: Cucumber is an excellent food for summers. You can make the cucumber more interesting by sprinkling some salt and pepper on it.
Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) or Electral: This is especially for those of you who are unable to bear heat and complain of uneasiness or headache in sun or after sun exposure. Always carry a pack of Electral with you. It contains certain salts made up of sodium, potassium, choride and citric acid. During sweating, the body loses sodium, potassium and chloride along with fluids. Therefore, it is important to replenish these salts along with water.
One pack of ORS has to be mixed with one litre of clean water. You can keep the solution ready in a bottle. One can keep sipping ORS along with having plain water. If a person is feeling dizzy, uneasy and complains of headache then, you can give a glass of ORS for immediate relief. If the person doesn’t feel better after a while, do consult the doctor.
Glucose: Glucose solutions can also be used during situations where the person complains of uneasiness and headache.
Consume meals on time. Do not skip any meal especially the breakfast. In severe heat, typically, you may lose appetite and skip meals. Your body won’t be able to bear the heat in such as condition. Your blood glucose levels may drop and may cause headache, dizziness, muscle cramps and so on. Therefore, consume your meals on time.
Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks. These drinks, in excess amounts, can cause dehydration.
Avoid consuming cold beverages or food. With extreme weather conditions, cold foods may trigger respiratory infections.
Other Points to Remember –
Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, and porous cotton clothes. Use protective goggles, umbrella/hat, shoes or chappals while going out in sun.
If possible, avoid going out in the sun, especially between 12.00 noon and 3.00 p.m.
If you work outside, use a hat or an umbrella and also use a damp cloth on your head, neck, face and limbs
Avoid strenuous activities when the outside temperature is high. Avoid working outside between 12 noon and 3 p.m.
If you exercise (indoor or outdoor), do keep drinking water even during the workout. People who indulge in heavy training are most at-risk for heat cramps and stroke.
Keep your home cool, use curtains, shutters or sunshade and open windows at night.
Use fans, damp clothing and take bath in cold water frequently.
If you feel faint or ill, see a doctor immediately.
Keep animals in shade and give them plenty of water to drink.
So, this summer, stay hydrated, stay cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!
National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India