Summer diseases.. Heat exhaustion

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Many children and adults are exposed to direct sunlight in the summer while spending time in gardens, on the streets, at school, in the market, or in other places.

Exposure to the sun for long periods can lead to one of the three syndromes related to heat, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

The human body can regulate its internal temperature through the temperature control center in the brain, for example, in hot weather, the body cools itself through sweating, regulating its temperature through the evaporation of sweat, however, when exposed to high temperatures, sunlight and humidity lasts for long periods, or a person engages in physical activity under the sunlight or in hot weather, the body cannot regulate internal temperatures and cool down.

The rising temperature then leads to shock, and the production of heavy sweat, which causes the loss of a large amount of water and mineral salts from the body and leads to symptoms of heat exhaustion.

The concept of heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a form of heat-related diseases, which occurs due to the loss of water and mineral salts from the body through heavy sweating, as a result of exposure to the heat of the sun for a long time.

Causes

– Exposure to direct sunlight, high humidity, and heat.

– Physical exertion, especially in hot and humid weather.

Symptoms

Increase in temperature of the body

Excessive sweating

Dizziness

Nausea

Fatigue and weakness

Rapid heartbeat

Muscle cramps

Heat stroke

Without preventive measures or medical intervention to reduce the temperature and help the person in time, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, in which the body temperature rises to more than 40 degrees Celsius, a temperature that is too high for the body’s systems to bear, causing a serious emergency.

Symptoms often start with headache, nausea, dizziness, general weakness, dehydration, and redness, and some may experience vomiting, diarrhea, sudden loss of consciousness, and rapid and deep breathing.

In addition, the patient can experience rapid and strong heartbeat as well as convulsions.

Heatstroke may affect vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, and muscles, which may lead to death.

Risk factors

Anyone can suffer from heat exhaustion, but some factors increase sensitivity to heat, including:

Age: Children under 6 years and adults over 65 years of age.

Medication: Some medications that increase the risk of heat stroke, such as:

Heart and blood pressure medications

Weight-loss pills

Diuretics

Antihistamines

Diseases: People suffering from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney and lung diseases.

Travelling: Travelers who move from a cold to a hot climate or an area with a heat wave, are more likely to be susceptible to heat-related illnesses because the body is not yet used to this sudden change in temperature.

Occupation: Construction workers who are exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods.

Exertion: Sports practitioners or those who exert their body under the sun or in hot weather.

Weight: Obesity and being overweight can affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature and make it unable to get rid of the heat.

Clothes: Wearing dark, lined, or insulated clothes, especially during physical exertion can affect the body’s natural process of regulating its heat.

First aid

Call for help and medical assistance immediately

Move the patient to a cool and shaded place

Loosen or take off the patient’s clothes

Keep the patient in the lying position with his/her legs and head raised.

Use water, a fan or cold compresses to reduce the patient’s temperature.

Slowly give the patient sips of water if he does not lose consciousness.

Prevention

Keeping the body cool is one of the main ways to prevent heat-related illness, and this is critically important when working outside or in the hot sun, and Prevention methods include:

Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for long periods and going out in hot weather, and if going out is necessary, wear a sun hat to protect your face from the sun’s rays or use light-colored umbrella.

Protect your body from sunburn, as sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself, so it is important to use sunglasses and apply sunscreen to the face a quarter to half an hour before leaving the house, and reapply it every two to three hours.

Drink a lot of water and fluids, to compensate for the body’s fluids loss and avoid fatigue and dehydration from severe heat.

Exercise in the cool parts of the day, such as early morning or evening, or exercise in an air-conditioned or temperature-controlled environment.

Avoid excessively drinking caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks, in hot weather, because caffeine increases the risk of dehydration.

Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes to reflect as much of the sunlight as possible

Be careful when using medications that can affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.

Relax during the hot hours of the day, and if working at this time is necessary, drink a lot of fluids and take frequent breaks in a shaded place where the temperature is cool

Don’t leave anyone in a parked car, especially children, this is a common cause of heat-related deaths, as the car’s temperature can rise rapidly when parked in the sun, which may lead to death.

BY: Dr. Badreyya Al-Harmi- Consultant Public Health, Vice President of the Emirates Public Health Association

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