Beat the Heat: Save yourself from heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

)Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

Srinagar, June 22: With temperatures rising and the mercury rising in Kashmir during this period, it has become increasingly important to be aware of the risks associated with excessive heat. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two potentially dangerous conditions that can occur when the body is unable to regulate its own temperature properly, doctors say.

Since the temperature is constantly hovering around 33°C, many people, especially children, have had to face a difficult time, especially during and after returning from school. “Heat exhaustion is a condition that occurs when the body overheats from prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion in hot weather. It is vital to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, as a Timely intervention can prevent it from developing into heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Altaf Hussain, a well-known pediatrician working in Srinagar.

He further explained that common symptoms of heat exhaustion include tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, profuse sweating, pale skin, muscle cramps, rapid breathing or heart rate, high body temperature, excessive thirst, and weakness. “Although these symptoms are similar in both adults and children, children can also show irritability,” she added. Dr Hussain pointed out that heat exhaustion in children can be particularly concerning as they may not be able to communicate their discomfort effectively.

According to Dr. Showkat Shah, a critical care specialist, if someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion, it’s crucial to act quickly to cool them down and provide fluids. He outlined four steps to keep in mind when dealing with family members and others suffering from heat-related complications:

Move the individual to a cool place: Move the individual, especially children, to a shaded or air-conditioned area away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Remove unnecessary clothing: Help them remove excess clothing, such as jackets or socks, to facilitate heat dissipation.

Hydrate: Encourage the person, including children, to drink a sports drink, rehydration solution, or cool water to replace lost fluids.

Cool their body: Apply cool water to the skin using a sponge or spray and use a fan to promote evaporation. Dr Showkat Shah advises: “Cooling measures should be gentle to avoid sudden changes in temperature. Use lukewarm water and ensure adequate ventilation.”

Heatstroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs when the body’s core temperature rises to dangerous levels. It can develop from untreated heat exhaustion or result from direct exposure to intense heat. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention. Signs of heatstroke include continued sickness after cooling down and resting, very high body temperature, hot, dry skin, rapid heart rate and breathing, confusion, incoordination, seizures, and loss of consciousness. “If someone loses consciousness, it is advised to put them in the safety position to await medical assistance,” Dr. Showkat Shah stressed.

Taking preventative measures is critical to reducing the risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions. Dr Altaf Hussain points out: ‘Children, especially young ones, are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to their immature thermoregulatory systems.’ He stressed that children need to be given plenty of cold liquids, such as water and fruit juices, to keep them hydrated throughout the day. Dr. Hussain also advised that you plan your outdoor activities wisely. “Limit children’s outdoor play time during peak sunshine hours (11am to 3pm) when temperatures are at their hottest,” he said. In schools, he stressed the importance of guaranteeing children access to shaded areas, using fans and avoiding leaving them in hot cars. “By following these preventative measures, parents and caregivers can protect children from the negative effects of excessive heat. Remember, vigilance and proactive measures are key to keeping children safe during hot weather,” she added.

Dr Showkat Shah stressed that with rising temperatures and scorching heat during the summer months, it is essential to prioritize well-being and take steps to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke. “By recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion, initiating appropriate cooling measures, and implementing preventative strategies, you can safeguard yourself and others from the potentially serious consequences of excessive heat,” he concluded.

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