India: The city of Mumbai continues to be gripped by a dual problem-COVID19 and harsh heat. While there is much awareness on the dos and don’ts that people must follow for keeping the virus at bay, much needs to be spoken about the heat wave and its consequences. Extreme heat events can be dangerous to one’s health – fatal sometimes. These events result in increased hospitalizations for heat-related illness, as well as cardiovascular distress, brain stroke and respiratory disorders. Extreme heat events can also trigger a ‘heat stroke’; this is a serious heat-related disorder. It means body temperatures of more than 104F due to hot environmental conditions. It occurs when the body is unable to control modulate its temperature. Here, the body temperature rises rapidly, sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down. Heat wave generally leads to confusion, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. This condition can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not made available within the golden hour. Children, elderly, and people with chronic diseases, and outdoor workers have higher risk for heat-related illness.
Actions we can take to address this: While we all know that our healthcare system has already been stretched to combat the ongoing pandemic, we can be responsible towards safeguarding human health and safety. We also need to take actions that make our communities less vulnerable to the heat wave impact that’s already in progress.
The Indian Metrological Department has already given us a warning sign for the hot summers ahead. As a community, we can protect people by communicating heat wave risks and suggesting protective actions in our societies and neighborhood; these warning systems are easy to execute. Moreover, we can organize easy access to public drinking water at street corners that can help keep people cool during periods of extreme heat. A few precautions can go a long way in helping you stay healthy.
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)
Having seasonal fruits & vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables like Mangoes, Watermelons, Cucumbers, green leafy veggies go a long way in keeping you hydrated and provide the much-needed vitamins & minerals. These are not only easy to digest, but will also give your hydration levels a boost
Carry an umbrella whenever you are out in the sun: If you cannot avoid walking in the peak afternoon heat, make sure you carry an umbrella to shield yourself from the harsh rays of the sun
Shower twice a day at least: Bathing helps in bringing down the body temperature. It is best to bathe with lukewarm water – studies suggest that taking a cold shower may actually switch your into ‘heat preservation’ mode
Ready reckoner to manage heat-related distress:
- Know who 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 lose 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 so your body can get back in balance
- 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
Last but not the least, animals feel the heat too, keeping a small bowl of water in your society premises, or on the footpath and regularly refilling it will help them too.