Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has urged people to start taking precautions to safeguard themselves against heat related illnesses (HRI), such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The body’s inability to cope with the heat can result in mild HRIs such as heat cramps and episodes of fainting, but can also advance to more severe conditions, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly, said Jefferson I. Lacson, Senior Clinical Dietician, Home HealthCare Services at HMC.
He has cautioned people to be aware of the warning signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other forms of heat-related illness. He said while mild to moderate dehydration can normally be reversed by drinking more fluids, severe cases of dehydration and heat-related illness are medical emergencies and require immediate treatment. “Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are very common heat related illnesses that can be life-threatening if left untreated. This happens if an individual is overexposed to the sun and not drinking enough water,” Lacson told The Peninsula. HRI occurs when a person’s body temperature rises above normal, due to prolonged exposure to heat in soaring temperatures, particularly as a result of high humidity and strenuous physical exercise. Lacson said that the first signs of heat-related illness typically include skin redness and warmth, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing, and a racing heart rate.
He said that if left untreated, heat cramps or heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is the most serious heat-related illness and can be fatal. According to him, depending on the extent of the illness, which ranges from mild to extreme, an individual may experience symptoms like muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating, light-headedness, and extreme fatigue. “Prolonged exposure to a hot environment and increased physical activity can then cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion and if those conditions continue, this can lead to heat stroke. People with heat exhaustion will often not realise the severity of their condition and may just complain of discomfort and uneasiness. They may experience excessive sweating, a throbbing headache, and dizziness – all of which are a result of the body’s temperature rising rapidly and the sweating mechanism failing. Essentially, the body loses its ability to cool down.
Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency medical treatment is not received,” said Lacson. He added that people need to ensure that they keep themselves protected as much as possible from the heat during the hottest months by keeping away from direct sunlight and drink plenty of water, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and other high-water-content foods, wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose clothing, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen. But avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks during summer.