With the mercury gradually soaring, people will soon be left battling health conditions as minor as muscular cramps to major ones such as heat stroke.
Sweating causes excessive loss of salt and minerals, which makes the body severely dehydrated. Since sweating helps maintain the body’s normal temperature, dehydration interferes with this mechanism, leaving one exhausted even after a little exertion.Doctors stress on the need for keeping oneself well hydrated, especially when one is outdoors. "Over-exposure to heat can cause headaches, drowsiness and muscle cramps, but it can also be life-threatening in severe cases, especially when the lost water is not replenished immediately," said Dr AB Dey, professor, department of medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
People above the age of 65, young children, obese people and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are at a higher risk of collapsing if there is excess water loss. The best that people can do to beat the scorching heat is to drink plenty of fluids to maintain the body’s electrolyte balance. Take quiz
“It is best to avoid the sun during peak hours, between 11am to 4pm. Also, drink at least a couple of glasses of water just before you step out. Carry a water bottle and keep sipping. To replenish lost salts and minerals, it’s better to take butter milk, coconut water or lime water instead of plain water,” said Dr SP Byotra, chairman, department of medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Also, covering the head with a wet towel or an umbrella, and wearing full-sleeved loose clothes help in minimising the effects of heat.
Prolonged sun exposure is equally bad for the skin, eyes and hair. “Irritation, itching, redness and rashes on any part of the skin are symptoms of sun damage. Forehead, cheeks, back of the neck and upper arm are the most vulnerable areas,” said Dr Deepak Sharma, senior consultant, department of dermatology, Fortis Hospital.
In most cases, symptoms can be treated at home. “Ice-packs should be applied immediately on the area of impact. Aloe vera plant gel is of great help in repairing sun damage and also decreases pigmentation. Calamine lotion that has zinc also helps heal the damage,” added Dr Sharma.
But it is always better to take preventive measures, like a good sunscreen, with above 30 SPF (sun protection factor) to be applied all over the exposed skin, 20 minutes before going out.
Eyes should be covered by wearing wide-rimmed sunglasses. Dry eyes with pinkish colour suggest sun damage. “Never self-medicate as it can damage eyes further. Sunglasses must be of good quality with ultraviolet protection, otherwise they can do more harm than good,” warns eye specialist Dr Mahipal S Sachdev, chairman, Centre for Sight.The sun’s radiation also causes damage to the hair. Therefore, one should use a shampoo and conditioner containing sunscreen. "Deep conditioning and using various hair masks can reduce the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure to quite an extent," said Shahnaz Husain, beauty expert.