UAE summer: How to prevent, treat heat stroke

Experts say obesity, hypertension can be a contributing factor

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2022, 3:11 PM

Last updated: Sat 18 Jun 2022, 10:50 PM

"Obesity is the most common factor contributing to heat strokes as overweight or obese people are 3.5 times more susceptible to fatalities from heat exhaustion," said Dr Harkirat Singh Wilkhoo, Health and Lifestyle Coach and Specialist Homeopath at RAK Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah.

It is a type of heat-related illness caused by prolonged exposure to strong heat, usually combined with dehydration, leading to the failure of the body's heat control mechanism.

During a heat stroke, the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. It is considered a medical emergency and can impact any person of any age or gender.

Dr Wilkhoo explains how heat stroke can be a risk factor for obese individuals.

"Carrying excess weight can affect the body's ability to regulate its temperature leading to heat retention in the body, as there is more insulation in the body which retains the heat inside, "said Dr Wilkhoo.

He added that the fluid intake below three litres every day might also cause dehydration during heat exposure. The dietary pattern also plays an important role in dehydration, leading to an increased risk of heatstroke.

Doctors say that when heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise above 40 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Depending upon the degree of illness, heatstroke presents its signs and symptoms in phases from mild heat cramps to heat syncope (fainting) and heat exhaustion. "Heat stroke can also kill or cause damage to the brain whereas complications involving the central nervous system can occur too," said Dr Wilkhoo.

A few risks that increase the risk of heat stroke are:

  • Renal disease
  • Hypertension
  • Exertion in hot weather
  • Sudden exposure to hot weather
  • Lack of air conditioning
  • Certain medications and health conditions

Signs and symptoms are:

  • Heat exhaustion presents as dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sweaty skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and cramps

"Untreated, heatstroke can lead to organ failure, a coma or death. People working outdoors, poorly ventilated sheds, enclosed sheds, furnaces, boilers, blowers, etc are more prone to heatstroke," said Dr Wilkhoo.

The first-aid measures for heat stroke:

  • Cooling down the body temperature with a cold bath
  • Shifting the patient to a place with air conditioning
  • Blowing air on wet body
  • Providing proper ventilation
  • Moving the patient to a shady and airy area
  • Applying ice packs on the armpits, groin, neck and back

"Once the patient is stable, give a small quantity of cold water to sip on at regular intervals to avoid stomach cramps and vomiting," said Dr Wilkhoo.


Some strategies for preventing heat stroke include:

  • Monitoring the colour of your urine. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration. To prevent dehydration, drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice per day.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol as both substances can make you lose more fluids and worsen heat-related illness.
  • Salty snacks, fast & fried foods, soy sauce and carbonated drinks are to be avoided.
  • Stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when going outdoors.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
  • Consume fruits rich in water content such as watermelon, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe and salads with cucumber and tomatoes,


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