Summer is here and the heat is on! The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) recently warned that the heat index has reached dangerous levels in several parts of the country, including Batangas, Olongapo, Cavite, Cagayan, and Zamboanga City. This means that residents could suffer from heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when the body overheats due to prolonged exposure or physical exertion in high temperatures. When the temperature rises to 40◦C, it can damage the brain, kidneys, heart, and muscles.
What’s alarming is that PAGASA reported that 11 areas had heat indices above 41◦C. The highest recorded temperature last week was reported in Dagupan City, Pangasinan at 45.2◦C!
Aside from high body temperature, heatstroke is characterized by slurred speech, confusion, delirium, irritability, seizures, and coma. Other symptoms are nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing, a fast heart rate, and headaches,
If the condition is caused by hot weather, the skin is hot and dry to the touch. If it is due to strenuous exercise, the skin may be slightly moist. Untreated, this type of heat injury can be fatal.
Besides hot weather or intense physical activity when it’s hot, other factors that increase the risk of heatstroke are excess clothes, drinking alcohol, and dehydration or lack of water. The condition is more likely to occur in the very young or in adults over 65 since the central nervous system cannot adjust to changes in body temperature.
Certain ailments can make an individual susceptible to heatstroke. These include heart and lung disease. Being obese and a sedentary lifestyle can also increase a person’s chances of developing heatstroke.
Medicines to Monitor
Believe it or not, your medicines can make you vulnerable to heatstroke. Be careful if you’re taking vasoconstrictors, beta blockers, diuretics, or antidepressants in hot weather. These medications may affect the way your body responds to heat.
To prevent heatstroke, wear loose, light clothes, bring an umbrella or use a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses outside. Protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunblock and reapply this every two hours, especially when you’re swimming or sweating.
Never stay or leave anyone in a parked vehicle where the temperature can rise quickly and drink plenty of water to hydrate your body. Avoid exercising or working in hot weather. If this is not possible, do this early in the morning or at night when it’s cooler.
In case someone has heatstroke, act quickly and get medical help. While waiting for the doctor, do what you can to keep the person cool. Immerse him in cold or ice water, or wrap him in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to the groin, back, neck, and armpits.
To prevent heat-related illness at home, take a cold shower or bath, drink lots of water or sports beverages and head to the nearest mall if you don’t have air conditioning. Avoid sugary or alcoholic beverages. These simple measures will help you enjoy summer and won’t make you suffer.
National Press Club and Philippine Dental Association awardee George Nava True II is the author of three health books based on his popular medical column that has been running for over 30 years. For inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 09331366645.