‘Taking preventive steps is key to averting heat stress and stroke’

ABU DHABI — Increasing awareness about first aid measures and taking preventive steps are the key to averting heat stress and stroke, especially in the case of the outdoor workers who are the most vulnerable in summer, a medical expert has advised.

By Ahmed Abdul Aziz

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Published: Fri 21 Jul 2006, 11:16 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:15 PM

Taking into consideration the type of weather in the UAE which is characterised by rising temperatures and high humidity due to which thousands of outdoor workers fall victim to sunstrokes, it has become important to recognise heat illness and means of treating them, said Dr Medha Bhaskaran, Technical Support Manager for Al Maya International in an interview to Khaleej Times.

She said the Maya International has conducted about 120 educational seminars across the UAE on heat illnesses, particularly heat rash, heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat rash occurs when sweat clogs pores. Though heat rash usually causes only temporary discomfort, it can develop into an infection. The first aid measure which must be taken is cleaning the affected area thoroughly and dry it completely, explained Dr Bhaskaran. ‘Calamine’ lotion or other soothing lotion may help relieve the discomfort, she added. The heat syncope illness mostly affects people who are not acclimatised to working in hot environments. Syncope is the sudden loss of consciousness due to lack of sufficient blood and oxygen to the brain. First aid required is cold shelter, plenty of water (recommended) or electrolyte fluids, said Dr Bhaskaran.

She said heat cramps can be completely disabling and typically occur during or after hard work and are caused by electrolyte deficiencies that result from extended periods of intense sweating. Symptoms include painful spasms of leg, arm or abdominal muscles, heavy sweating and thirst. Drinking plenty of water or electrolyte fluids are the suitable first aid, she added.

She said heat exhaustion results from dehydration, lack of acclimatisation, reduction of blood in circulation, strain on circulatory system as well as reduced blood flow to the brain. "Fatigue, headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, and chills, tingling of hands or feet, confusion, loss of coordination, fainting and collapse, are symptoms of health exhaustion. When a worker is engaged outdoors during the summer, he loses about 1.5 litres of body water per hour in sweat. Within eight hours, he loses about 12 litres and if the humidity is high about 15 litres in sweat. Sweat also takes away electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium," she explained.

The expert warned that heat stroke can occur suddenly if heat exhaustion was not treated and can be fatal.

"At this extreme state of heat stress, the body typically has a core temperature exceeding 104F (About 40C) and can no longer cool itself. A person suffering heat stroke needs immediate attention and should be taken to a medical facility as soon as possible," urged Dr Bhaskaran.

POINT TO NOTE

BODY water is stored in compartments. Majority is in the cells, some in the muscles and about seven per cent in the blood.

Body water helps metabolism, muscle reflexes and smooth flow of blood. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium help proper distribution of water in these compartments, according to Dr Medha Bhaskaran.

Sodium helps maintain blood volume and potassium helps water in the cells, while magnesium and calcium retain enough water in tissues and muscles.

The most important aspect of hydration is giving back the body what is lost. It is impossible for any human being to drink large amounts of water at once.



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