Summer in the Gulf is no picnic. It’s harsh, humid and pretty harrowing. The mercury climbs upwards of 45°C, bringing with a great incidence of heat stroke, exhaustion and dehydration. Humans can tolerate internal temperatures above 41°C for only very brief periods of time. The response of the body to this involves increased blood circulation and sweating to keep the body cool. However, prolonged exposure to heat can be hazardous.
“When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down. When the body’s fluid levels are dangerously low, vessels contract and blood pressure levels drop. The lack of electrolytes in the blood means vital organs do not get blood flow. This can cause fatal irreversible damage as a person can go into a coma. Symptoms such as lethargy, light headedness and excessive sweating should not be ignored as they are the first signs of a heat related illness,” said Dr. Mohamed Shafeeq, Specialist – Internal Medicine, Medeor 24X7 Hospital. “
Heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, which is the body’s response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps. Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.
“Taking breaks to come indoors especially if you are outdoors very often, wearing protective clothing such as caps, hats or scarves, working in the shade as much as possible, wearing sunscreen, constantly drinking water to keep hydrated are all important precautions to prevent heat stroke and other related illnesses,” says Dr Shafeeq. “Also, children’s body temperature can rise five times faster than that of an adult, hence parents need to be more careful and avoid leaving children in a heated car. If such symptoms arise immediately get patient to the hospital. It has been quite common especially among laborers and they often come to hospitals with symptoms of heat exhaustion and cramps leading at times to electrolyte imbalances resulting in total weakness of their limbs hence abundant fluid intake and oral intakes with banana and other fruits are required.”
A lot of people stay indoors and crank up the air conditioning to deal with the extreme heat. While that may not seem like an obvious problem, it could pose some health risks especially if you tend to spend too much time in an air-conditioned environment.
“Spending long hours in an air conditioned home or workplace may also cause you to suffer heat intolerance when you go outside. You may feel exhausted from exposure to the heat of the outdoors. Often, dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and even heat stroke may occur to a person who has spent long amounts of time in an air conditioned space. Also, if you suffer from allergies during summer, being in an air conditioned office or home for prolonged periods can worsen your symptoms, especially if mold is circulating in the air,” says Dr Shafeeq.
Studies show that if the air in your workplace or home is poorly circulated or contains allergens, you could suffer from allergies, itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness or difficulty breathing. It could also lead to asthma, if the condition persists for a while. Long hours of exposure to central air conditioning can dry out the skin. It can also dry out your mucus membranes, which increases the incidence of respiratory conditions.
Some of the best ways to deal with these issues include maintaining and cleaning your air conditioners regularly. Make sure your home or workplace has adequate ventilation to help bring fresh air inside and reduce indoor contaminants. Turning off the system and opening the windows occasionally can help circulate the air for periods of time.
“Medeor 24×7 Hospital is community focused and our commitment is to the good health of the residents of Dubai and the UAE. We strongly believe that prevention and raising awareness of health issues that people are unaware about is the way forward to ensuring a healthy population,” said Dr. Shajir Gaffar, CEO – VPS Healthcare for Dubai and the Northern Emirates.