Hyderabad: Summer is upon us and the Mercury is rising at an exponential rate. By the looks of things, we are going to have one of the hottest summers in recent years. Summer heat brings along with a lot of medical issues and also precipitates issues in patients who have chronic diseases like BP and diabetes.
People who have been in the sun for long periods generally suffer from one of the following:
Heat exhaustion: People sweat a lot in the sun and feel weak and dizzy. They are dehydrated, have a dry tongue, and tend to become drowsy if not taken care of at the earliest.
Heat cramps: People who have been in the sun for an extended period of time see a loss of body electrolytes (sodium, potassium) and water leading to cramping pains generally in large muscle groups, typically calf muscles.
Heatstroke: This is the most dangerous type as it can even lead to death. Staying out in the sun for prolonged periods causes the body to heat up to abnormal levels, causing changes in the internal body thermostat in the brain. If the person is not admitted and cooling methods are not started, she/he may end up with severe brain damage or even worse, death.
Things to do
DO wear hats and caps.
DO drink lots of water during the day.
DO cover your body, preferably wear soft cotton full-sleeves, to avoid excessive sweating and sunburns.
Things not to do
DO NOT stand or go out in the sun for long periods.
DO NOT go out during peak temperature hours – 11 a.m to 3 p.m – unless absolutely necessary.
DO NOT wait to get medical help with the first sign of heat symptoms.
Here's what to do in case of heatstroke or cramps
Heatstroke can cause a person to talk without making sense, get dizzy, and lose consciousness. He should be immediately taken out of the sun and arrangements should be made to get medical attention. Until then his clothes should be removed and wet cotton rags put all over the body. He should be put under a fan so the heat from the body evaporates.
In a medical setup, they will perform further cooling procedures using cold baths, icepacks, cooled IV fluids, etc.
For heat cramps, patients should be asked to drink fluids, especially ORS solutions as it will replenish the lost electrolytes. It can also be managed with medication, specifically for cramps, but we need to correct the fluid status as that is the main cause of cramps.
For heat exhaustion, remove the person from under the sun, replenish his fluids, keep him in a cool environment, and give him something to eat to replenish his reserves.
Remember to stay hydrated
Drinking water is the best and easiest way to prevent any kind of heat-related symptoms. Water keeps you cool, keeps your electrolytes in balance, and prevents dehydration.
It's better to make it a habit to drink water or juice during the day in the summer months.
If you do have to go out in the sun it is better to use public transport like buses or trains or metro or cars than go on foot or on two-wheelers to avoid direct contact with sunlight.
-Dr. Muqshith Quadri
The author is a senior general and diabetologist at Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad.