Health Talk | Protect yourself this summer season - Hindustan Times

Health Talk | Protect yourself this summer season

Apr 13, 2024 05:20 PM IST

The India Meteorological Department has warned of at least double the usual number of heatwave days between April and June

Last week, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting to review the country’s preparedness for the upcoming heat wave season, as the country’s weather forecasting agency, India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of at least double the usual number of heatwave days between April and June.

Exposure to high outdoor and indoor temperatures can induce heat stress, directly and indirectly, leading to heat-related illnesses.(Rahul Raut/HT file photo) PREMIUM
Exposure to high outdoor and indoor temperatures can induce heat stress, directly and indirectly, leading to heat-related illnesses.(Rahul Raut/HT file photo)

Exposure to high outdoor and indoor temperatures can induce heat stress, directly and indirectly, leading to heat-related illnesses. To prevent people from falling severely sick due to exposure to excessive heat, the health ministry has issued a public health advisory.

For the general public, the advisory has asked people to stay hydrated, stay covered and eat fruit and vegetables that are high in water content. For the vulnerable population or people who are at greater risk than others, additional attention is necessary. The vulnerable population includes infants and young children, people working outdoors, pregnant women, people suffering from mental illness, or those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, as well as travellers from colder climes. It is advised that the vulnerable should allow their bodies to acclimatise to the heat, avoid overexertion, and drink plenty of water.

Also Read: Heat waves will intensify, milder ones are also deadly, scientist makes pitch to NDMA

Since anyone can suffer from heat stress and heat-related illness at any given point in time, these are good thumb-rules to follow:

Stay hydrated: Drink sufficient water whenever possible, even if you are not thirsty. Carry drinking water when travelling. Use Oral Rehydration Solution, and consume homemade drinks such as lemon water, buttermilk or lassi, and fruit juices with some added salt.

Eat seasonal fruit: Fruit and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, muskmelon, orange, grapes, pineapple, cucumber, lettuce or other locally available fruits and vegetables are good sources of the minerals and micronutrients that the body needs at this time of the year.

Stay covered: Wear thin loose, cotton garments that are light coloured. When stepping out use an umbrella, a hat, a cap, a towel or any other headgear to avoid exposure to direct sunlight. Try and limit your activity to the cooler times of the day i.e., the morning and evening. The sun is at its peak between noon and 3 pm.

Ensure proper ventilation: It is important to stay in well-ventilated spaces when indoors. At night, open windows to let cooler air in. Keep the house cool, use curtains, shutters or sunshades and open windows at night. Try to remain on lower floors during the day, and use fans, spray bottles, damp cloths, or ice towels to cool down the body.

Do’s and don’ts

Crowded spaces increase the risk of acute heat-related illnesses even in the absence of active heatwave alerts in the area. For the vulnerable population, physical exertion, direct sun exposure, overcrowding, and lack of water, food and shade may worsen health.

We are advised to drink water every 20 minutes or more frequently to stay hydrated, and work sites should not only provide shaded work areas (like temporary shelters) but also schedule strenuous jobs to cooler times of the day. Rest breaks of at least five minutes must be provided after an hour of laborious work. Immersing one’s feet in 20°C water above the ankle provides rapid cooling, by reducing dehydration and thermal discomfort.

Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks or drinks with large amounts of sugar as these actually lead to loss of more body fluid or may cause stomach cramps. Avoid high-protein foods, do not eat stale food, and do not leave children or pets in parked vehicles.

Workers should also be trained to recognize factors that increase the risk of developing a heat-related illness as well as the signs and symptoms of heat stress. A “buddy system” helps since people are not likely to notice their own symptoms. An emergency response plan should be in place in the event of a heat-related illness.

What are the red flags to watch out for?

A person affected by heat will have altered mental sensorium with disorientation, confusion and agitation, irritability, and in extreme cases, ataxia (loss of muscle control) seizures or even go into a coma. When the core body temperature is greater than or equal to 40°C or 104°F, the skin feels hot, red and dry and the person even has headaches. Anxiety, dizziness, fainting and lightheadedness are also common symptoms of a heat stroke, as are muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting.

Rhythma Kaul, national deputy editor, health, analyses the impact of the most significant piece of news this week in the health sector

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    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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