Do you guys remember the old commercial that opened with ‘Chupti Jalti Garmi’ or of the more popular glucose infused drink that showcased how the animated sun literally sucked out the life from the child playing outdoors, during summer? Most of us who are living in tropical countries experience a very harsh summer that becomes unbearable in certain parts. And now with the rapid climate change globally, we are experiencing heat waves on a scale never experienced before. The alarming situation is a cause of concern as what we are experiencing this year is extremely hot and dry conditions, followed by severe medical emergencies arising out of the heat waves. West Bengal itself has come under ‘Orange Alert’ which is indicative of extreme heat that can lead to heat related illness. In other words, what we are at risk now in medical terms is defined as heat stroke. In this blog, we will cover the key aspects of heat stroke and how to protect oneself from it.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a condition that occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. It usually occurs when the body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and can quickly cause damage to organs if not treated immediately.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
The symptoms of heat stroke can be similar to those of other heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, but they are more severe and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of heat stroke include:
- High body temperature that comes with bouts of fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius)
- Rapid heartbeat which could be indicative of both high and low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Headache that persists for a long period of time
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion and disorientation
Causes of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke can be caused by exposure to high temperatures and humidity, especially when the body is unable to cool itself down. As we are aware, the human body contains the hypothalamus which regulates our body temperature but under severe temperature conditions like in case of heat waves, the body is unable to cope with the load. Some of the common causes of heat stroke include:
- Strenuous physical activity in hot weather
2. Exposure to hot, humid environments for an extended period
4. Alcohol or drug use
5. Certain medications may trigger coupled with the heat wave
6. Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and obesity
How to Protect Oneself from Heat Stroke???
Heat stroke is preventable with some simple precautions. Here are some ways to protect oneself from heat stroke:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks. Remember there’s no better friend than water at this hour. Don’t forget to carry a water bottle whenever travelling outside. You can also store water in natural earthen pots for a cooling effect. Moreover, you can increase the consumption of fruits that contain water and avoid foods like meat that tend to increase body temperature.
- Stay cool:Avoid exposure to high temperatures and humidity. Stay in air-conditioned environments or use fans to keep cool. If you have to be outside, try to stay in the shade or carry an umbrella, wear sunglasses with UV protection lenses and don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours.
- Dress comfortably: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that allows air to circulate. Cotton khadi clothes are the best to wear at this time. Avoid dark-colored clothing, or materials like rayon or georgette or any polyester material as it absorbs heat and prevents air circulation.
- Take breaks: If you are doing physical activity in hot weather, take frequent breaks and rest in a cool place.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: Alcohol and drugs can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature and increase the risk of heat stroke. When intoxicated to a great extent, chances of dehydration and hangovers multiply.
6. Be aware of medications: Some medications can increase the risk of heat stroke. If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor to see if they increase your risk. Don’t self medicate at any cost.
Know the warning signs: Learn the symptoms of heat stroke and take action if you or someone you know shows signs of heat stroke. Don’t neglect these common symptoms. Remember great dangers can be averted only when precautions are taken into account.
We are on the verge of an extreme climatic condition. Few of us are privileged but there’s a large majority of underprivileged people, who probably can’t afford the luxury of air conditioners or take leaves from their daily work. “It’s time we become empathetic about others, that includes our fellow humans and animals who share this planet with us”, remarks Vibha Agarwal, who is not only a certified health coach from the USA but also a philanthropist, educator and believer in the philosophy of healing. Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention. It can be prevented by taking simple precautions. By being aware of the warning signs and taking action, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dangers of heat stroke. Stay safe and stay cool!