Doctors urge precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses

DUBAI — With temperatures rising faster than usual, coupled with record humidity levels, the best advice is to stay indoors and avoid the heat completely, according to doctors in Dubai. However, those unwilling or unable to do so can still follow various safety precautions to ensure protection from heat and to avoid any health risk.



By Reshmi Nair

Published: Sat 7 Jul 2007, 8:38 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:01 AM

Heat exhaustion, the mildest form of heat-related illnesses, is caused by exposure to too much heat. This can be due to either over-exertion or excessive sweating in a hot, humid or poor ventilated space, where the body is unable to effectively replace fluids.

People at high risk to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Clinics in Dubai are reporting an unusually high number of cases of heat exhaustion this summer. Dr Binu Thomas, a physician from Al Rafa Polyclinic, noted that last year, most heat exhaustion cases occurred in the July-August period. “We saw much more heat exhaustion patients in June, from as early as the second week. I currently receive at least 2 to 3 such patients each day,” he says.

Similarly, Dr Mohammed Koya, a general practitioner from the Canara Medical Centre located at the Gold Souk agreed that the centre has been receiving “significantly” more patients this year.

While heat exhaustion is alarming, its symptoms — fatigue, nausea, weakness, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps, loss of appetite and heavy sweating — are easy to spot. In most cases, medical attention is not necessary as long as people drink plenty of water, move to a cooler environment, wrap themselves with wet cloth, take frequent breaks and wear loose clothing.

However, if the symptoms remain untreated, they can develop into a much more serious condition — heat stroke, where the person’s cooling system stops functioning.

“Heat stroke patients can develop convulsions, a rapid heart rate and even lose consciousness,” said Dr Thomas.

“In any case, call an ambulance immediately. This is a life-threatening condition.” Dr Koya added, “In case of heat stroke, the patient needs IV fluids. So while waiting for the ambulance, make sure the patient is given plenty of water. Avoid hot drinks or drinks with caffeine.”

Ideally, heat-related illnesses can be effectively prevented by maintaining a healthy diet. Both Dr Thomas and Dr Koya agree that it is important to drink plenty of fluids, for instance, two to three glasses of fluids before exerting oneself in the heat.

Dr Binu suggests drinks with electrolyte powdering or lime juice as they provide the body with the much-needed salts it loses from sweating.

Dr Koya explains that cutting down on meat intake could be beneficial. “The body produces additional heat in order to digest meat. I would advise eating more vegetable and fruits instead.”

Additionally, external protection is undeniably useful and Dr Koya suggests a few precautions to be taken before one moves outdoors.

“Sun lotion is essential. Make sure it has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least +30 to be effective. Try dressing in light clothing, especially cotton, and always carry an umbrella,” he said.


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