Prevent heat-induced illness as weather heats up
Welcome to this month’s health matters. With the wet season approaching I thought we’d talk about heat exposure and heat stroke.
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by a mild-extreme elevation in body temperature which is normally controlled by sweating. Sweating allows a person to cool through evaporation. However, once a person becomes too dehydrated to sweat, the body temperature can rise rapidly and dramatically.
Things like humidity can also prevent a sweat from evaporating. This results in the body being unable to cool effectively, resulting in a heatinduced illness. This is why in the wet season we need to be aware of our body temperature.
Heat exhaustion is likely to occur when a person’s body temperature rises above 37C but below 40C. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heatrelated illnesses and occurs when the body temperature is higher than 40C. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke present in very different ways.
Heavy sweating and dilated pupils are the main signs.
People will complain of extreme tiredness, feeling faint/dizzy, headaches and nausea. Occasionally, people can collapse.
Heat exhaustion is managed by lying down, loosening clothing, moistening skin with a moist cloth, cooling the person by fanning and giving the person something cool to drink.
Dry skin, rapid shallow breathing, rapid pulse, trouble speaking or concentrating and constricted pupils are the main signs of heat stroke.
People will complain of vertigo, confusion, headaches, thirst, nausea and cramping. Heat stroke can be very serious and needs to be medically reviewed.
If you are worried about heat stroke contact your GP or ED. Place the person in a cool environment, moisten the skin with a damp cloth, apply wrapped ice packs to the neck, groin and armpits.
Young children, the elderly, people with kidney, heart or circulation problems, and diabetics on insulin are at greater risk of heat stroke and associated complications.
This wet season remember prevention is better than cure. To prevent heat-induced illness:
Drink plenty of water — remember, drinks like tea, coffee and alcohol will add to dehydration. The body loses about 2.5 to 3 litres of water a day — if its hot, more. So remember to drink.
Wear lightweight, lightcoloured and loose fitting clothing, preferably made from a fabric that allows heat to evaporate and your body to breathe.
Follow “slip, slop, slap, seek and slide”.
Limit physical activity and time spent outdoors — or try and be out before 10am and after 4pm.
Some other things to remember as the weather starts to heat up:
Never leave children or pets in cars.
Keep up energy levels with nourishing foods, fruit and vegetables.
Babies less than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight.