People living in a tropical country like the Philippines are used to scorching heat in summer. Some even go out to say that a little mercury rising is good and doesn’t hurt anyone.
However, as the temperature continues to be on the higher side of 30-degree Celsius (while “real feel” goes as high as 40-plus degrees), many may be overlooking serious heat-related illnesses that could cause not only extreme stress and irritability but also death.
Emergency Department chairman of health care facility Makati Medical Center Dr. Gabriel G. Gabriel shares valuable information on what to look out for and how to keep cool when the temperature continues to be unbearably hot.
Health risk: Dehydration
Experts say that heat exhaustion and heat stress are two of the most common types of heat injury that cause dehydration.
“If left untreated, dehydration can develop into more serious medical concerns,” warns Dr. Gabriel.
The solution: Drink up
Dr. Gabriel strongly advises drinking lots of water, especially for individuals who work in hot environments or are directly exposed to the sun.
“It’s important to fill up on fluids during warm weather to keep our body’s temperature balanced,” he says.
Dr. Gabriel also shares that hydrating doesn’t just mean drinking water. Sports drinks formulated with electrolytes may also be taken by those engaged in physical activities. Replacing lost electrolytes helps prevent heat cramps or muscle spasms. Munching on fruits high in water content such as watermelon, strawberries and peaches can also keep the body hydrated.
Health risk: Skin irritation
Overexposure to high temperature can cause the skin to break out with heat rashes.
The solution: Slather calamine lotion
When skin starts to itch, Dr. Gabriel advises applying calamine lotion to help ease itch and inflammation. Calamine is used as an anti-itching agent that treats sunburn, rashes, chickenpox and insect bites, among others. In fact, this lotion is listed on World Health Organization’s essential medicines needed in basic health system.
A visit to the doctor would also be best if there’s a possible infection. In addition, refrain from wearing tight clothing and instead opt for loose and comfortable outfits during the warmer months of the year.
Health risk: Heat stroke
Among all the heat-related illnesses, heat stroke is considered to be the most serious. It is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures in combination with dehydration.
Heat stroke causes failure of the body’s temperature control system and can even lead to brain damage and death.
The solution: Be vigilant, know what to do
According to Dr. Gabriel, “If the patient’s fever exceeds 40 degrees and is showing symptoms of nausea, disorientation or seizures, rush him or her to the nearest emergency room.”
In case help could not come immediately, cooling first-aid tactics may be employed such as removing the patient’s unnecessary clothing, wetting his skin with water, applying ice packs on the body, or immersing the patient in a shower or tub of cold water.
The heat may be inevitable, but people need not fall victim to its health risks. The simple solution is not to treat indicators as dismissible, because prevention is always better than cure.