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Tips to protect yourself from Heat Wave as the temperature soars in India

Apr 18, 2023

Infants, children, those over 65 and people who are overweight, ill or on certain medications are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. It is important to take precautions, especially after 11 people who attended a government function on April 16 in the scorching heat in Kharghar died due to heat stroke, while several others were hospitalised.  

Things you can do to stay safe as temperatures soar

On February 28, after the Indian Meteorological Department issued the first heatwave warning for 2023. The Union health ministry also passed a directive for surveillance on heat-related diseases under the National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH).

While the central guidelines on heat-related illnesses are released every year, the warning this time came nearly a month in advance. And the deaths of at least 11 people in Navi Mumbai during a government function on April 16 due to heat stroke are a grim reminder of how crucial it may be to follow the guidelines as temperatures soar.

Heat waves are emerging as a major public health concern in many parts of this country and the most vulnerable people are children, the elderly, and those with comorbidities, said Dr Rajiva Gupta, Senior Consultant, Internal medicine, at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram. “These individuals are more likely to experience dehydration when exposed to extreme environmental temperatures,” he told Moneycontrol.

It is important to take precautions against the adverse effects of heat, which can manifest as cramps, lethargy, body aches, weakness, and, in severe cases, as kidney function disturbance, low blood pressure, and exacerbation of comorbidities in those who suffer from them, he stressed.

Those at greatest risk for heat-related illness typically include infants and children up to four years of age, people 65 years of age and older, people who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications, said Gupta.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Dr Ajay Aggarwal, director and head, internal medicine, at Fortis Hospital in Noida, said that Exertional heat illness (EHI) or heat stroke is often preventable.

Heat-Related Illnesses 

To protect yourself from heat-related illnesses, it is important to take measures such as staying hydrated and drinking water throughout — even when you’re not feeling thirsty. Also, take frequent breaks for hydration and to cool down while exercising. And avoid going out during the hottest parts of the day, typically between 10 am and 4 pm, he said.

Wearing loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric such as cotton, taking cool showers or baths, using fans or air conditioning, and using cool compresses to reduce your body temperature are also important.

It may also be important to check on older adults, young children, and people with medical conditions to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated, Aggarwal stressed.

Activities to avoid in unusually high temperatures

Experts caution that physical activities that can increase your body temperature, especially during the hottest parts of the day, should be avoided.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, one should avoid prolonged exposure to heated environments, avoid exercising in the heat, and always seek shade, said Gupta.

If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of heatstroke, such as a high body temperature, confusion, dizziness, nausea, or a rapid heartbeat, seek medical attention immediately, suggested Aggarwal.

Key points those susceptible to heat-related illnesses should keep in mind

Infants, children, those over 65 and people who are overweight, ill or on certain medications are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.

Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar, senior consultant physician, geriatric medicine with Primus Hospital in the national capital, said that senior citizens may be more prone to dehydration and heat stroke due to their lower physiological reserves and blunted response system due to impaired homeostasis mechanisms such as sweating.

Those especially vulnerable, he said, should avoid exposure to hot environments, and consume enough water and electrolytes. But, in the case of a heat stroke, removing clothing, having an ice-water bath and visiting the nearest emergency for intravenous fluids and further management may be advisable.

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