Community Medicine Specialist, Manager of the Family Health Bureau and National Programme on Maternity and Children’s diseases and deaths Kapila Jayaratne emphasized that harmful health effects which can occur due to high heat such as now can be avoided by acting with intelligence and following proper medical advice.
This was mentioned in a statement issued by the Department of Health Services of the Ministry of Health titled, ‘Facing hot weather.’ The facts included in this statement appear below.
It is reported that these days temperatures in the environment exceed average figures and are at a very high level. The media give various advice on situations which can be harmful to the human body and it is important to be correctly informed.
High risk groups
Generally the temperature of the body can be controlled through sweating. However, when humidity in the environment is high, this procedure does not take place properly. Humidity in Sri Lanka these days is about 95%.
High heat can bring about harmful effects to certain persons. It is important that infants, children below the age of 4 years, elderly persons above 65 years of age, obese persons, those who exert the body extensively and patients should especially be careful.
How to protect oneself?
In order to minimize harmful physical effects due to hot temperatures the main step is to drink plenty of water. During activities that require exerting the body a lot, more water than the general quantity of water used for thirst normally, needs to be consumed. When exerting the body in a certain activity, 2 – 4 glasses of water should be consumed. This is essential for the elderly and children. Quantity of salt required can be obtained through salt added to foods usually.
Persons of every status, especially children should exert themselves physically only up to a point which the body can bear. It is recommended that physical exercise should be engaged either in the mornings or evenings. It is essential that those engaged in physical exercises should stop exercising from time to time and rest in a shady place.
Children and other persons should, whenever possible be indoors or covered places. It is more suitable if the place is air conditioned. Electric fans can be used too. By bathing or body washing in cold water body temperatures can be reduced. Wearing light coloured, loose clothes in cotton is very suitable. It is important to wear minimum clothing required to cover the body. It is suitable to wear a hat or use an umbrella to be protected from the heat.
What people should not do;
There are things that people should not do during such hot weather. People should refrain from eating hot foods or taking hot liquids, especially drinking hot tea. They should not expose themselves to other heat or sunlight. People should not stay in rooms where there is no proper ventilation. It is harmful to consume alcohol, extremely cold or sweet drinks too.
Instances where people should be alert;
There are instances when people should be alert. When a person is exerting his or her body, if they experience extreme fatigue, a fast heart beat or a difficulty in breathing they should immediately stop what they are doing and rest in a cool place. If one suffers from heaviness of the head or a faintish feeling they should inform someone.
The skin can turn red and start itching due to the sunlight. It is possible that even burns or blisters could occur. They can be prevented by using sun screen creams. Itching of the skin in the neck, chest or breasts can occur too. They can be prevented by staying in cool places and keeping the skin cool. If children have burns due to sunlight, they should be taken to see a qualified doctor. Muscle cramps could also occur and on such occasions liquids with salt should be consumed and rest should be taken. Liquids with sugar too could be consumed. If one does not return to normal within an hour, they should see a doctor.
Due to high heat some persons could suffer from heat strokes. With the body unable to control the temperature, the brain and nerves get damaged causing heat strokes. Heat strokes are rare in Sri Lanka.
Persons in special high risk groups, should be extremely careful during hot weather. Infants, children below the age of 4 years, elderly persons above 65 years of age are very sensitive to temperature changes and depend on other people to keep their body temperatures steady. Due to the layer of oil beneath the skin of obese persons, body temperatures cannot be reduced easily. Infants should be dressed in light clothing and kept in cool places and fed liquids frequently. They should not be given hot foods or liquids.
By acting with intelligence and following proper medical advice, harmful health effects which can occur due to high heat can easily be prevented.