Heat Stroke: “Beat The Heat!”
With the unforgiving temperatures Pakistan is experiencing this year, combined with the frequent load shedding and the holy month of Ramadan fast approaching, it’s time to gear up for the very real threat of Heat Stroke! We have become so immune to hearing about this “emergency condition” that we do not realise how life-threating it really is! Karachi and many areas in interior Sindh are already hitting temperatures in the 40s. This means that there is a dire need for intervention, to avoid the catastrophic events of 2015 to repeat – where over 1500 people lost their lives to heat stroke due to lack of awareness and poor management at healthcare centres!
What is Heat Stroke? It is the overheating of the body due to prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures. The serious effects of heat stroke are experienced if the body temperature rises above 40⁰C. Children, the elderly, laborers and those with other health related problems are at a greater risk of a heat stroke. Since a significant percentage of our population falls under these categories, many fall victim to heat stroke. This is because majority of the people in Pakistan are living in a rural setup with lack of basic facilities. These people do not have access to water, electricity or even basic healthcare, which further adds to the ordeal.
Apart from the high body temperature some of the common presentations of patients with heat stroke include high blood pressure, red hot and dry skin, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, throbbing headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea and eventual unconsciousness. It is important to note that not all the above-mentioned symptoms may be present in any one person. It is not just for a health practitioner to be aware of these symptoms but for all individuals to recognize and provide assistance if needed.
Undoubtedly, the most important steps in the management of Heat Stroke is its prevention. Here are some ways to do so:
- Dress yourself and children in minimal, loose fitting clothing: Since many women in Pakistan wear the abaya they are particularly prone to Heat Stroke. These women should be encouraged to make the abaya from light weight, light colored and thin material.
- Keep up the fluid intake: Approximately 10-12 glasses of water should be consumed in a day. The fluid intake can be in the form of juices, tea, coffee, soups etc. However sugary drinks should be avoided.
- Take more than one shower in a day: This is crucial if one has been out in the peak hours of the day (11am- 4pm).
- Try to remain in a cool environment: In case there is no air conditioning, draw all the curtains so there is minimal light.
- Beware of the side effects of medication: For people on daily pills consult a doctor to see if the medicine causes dehydration, which is a common side effect.
- Make sure there is proper ventilation: In your house, office and avoid confined poorly ventilated spaces.
- Avoid fatty foods: Try to eat as many greens and fruits that contain citrus to say hydrated and fresh.
- Avoid the use of heat radiating appliances: This includes appliances such as hair dryers, straighteners, curlers etc.
- Limit physical activity: Do kitchen work, laundry or other house chores to cooler hours of the day.
- Stay Indoors: Lastly avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun by staying indoors.
Let’s ensure we beat the heat together and spread the word so others may benefit as well!