The ongoing heat wave in India has broken several records. March would have been the hottest in 122 years, while the national capital, Delhi, experienced the second hottest April in 72 years with an average maximum temperature of 40.2 ° C, almost four degrees above the normal average of 36.30.

These heat waves cause a host of concerns, such as the effects on people’s health, crops and economic activities.

The World Health Organization has said of India’s heatwaves: “Heat-related deaths and hospitalizations can occur extremely quickly (same day) or have a delayed effect (several days later) and lead to acceleration of death or illness in people who are already fragile, particularly observed in the first days of a heat wave.

Here are common health problems associated with heat waves, how to recognize them, and tips for preventing these health problems.

heat cramps

Heat cramps are muscle spasms caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes. This is usually caused by strenuous physical activity at high temperatures which is often accompanied by profuse sweating.

Besides muscle spasms, other symptoms experienced in the legs, arms, back, and abdomen are involuntary jerking movements, muscle aches, profuse sweating, and fever, according to Healthline.

Healthline adds that heat cramps can also be symptoms of more serious conditions such as heat stroke. You need to rest and restore your fluids and electrolytes. But if you still don’t feel well, you should see a doctor, so the heat cramps don’t escalate into heat exhaustion or a stroke.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is one of three heat-related conditions in that order of increasing severity — heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, according to the Mayo Clinic.

This happens when you are exposed to high temperatures and suffer from dehydration. Symptoms are: confusion, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea or diarrhea, pale skin, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat.

Low blood pressure when standing and cold, moist skin with goosebumps in hot weather are also associated with heat exhaustion.

As first aid, you should move the person with heat exhaustion to a cooler place, give them fluids to restore lost fluids and electrolytes, and remove any unnecessary or tight clothing. You should also fan them or put ice towels to cool them down. They can also receive a cool shower or a bath.

However, if the person is not relieved of exhaustion within 15 minutes, you should seek emergency medical attention, according to WebMD, because untreated heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke resulting in brain damage. and even death.

Heat stroke and differences with heat exhaustion

You are said to have heatstroke when your body temperature rises above 104°F from exposure to extreme heat. This is accompanied by dehydration. Fainting is usually the first sign of heat stroke in a person, according to WebMD.

Other symptoms are throbbing headaches; dizziness and lightheadedness; lack of sweating despite the heat; red, hot, dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; rapid heartbeat which may be strong or weak; rapid shallow breathing; behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation or staggering; seizures; and unconsciousness.

As you would see, the three conditions explained here have overlapping symptoms, such as cramps and headaches. The difference between them is more and more serious.

A person with symptoms of heatstroke that are not seen in heat exhaustion, such as a very high body temperature; lack of sweating despite the heat; red, hot, dry skin; rapid, shallow breathing, should be taken to a medical practitioner immediately.

During this time, move the person away from the heat to a cool place, possibly in the shade or in an air-conditioned place if possible. Continue to ventilate the person to cool their body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should also blot the person with cool water, place ice packs or cool wet towels over the neck, armpits, and groin, and cover the person with cool, damp sheets.

How to protect yourself from heat waves

Exposure to extreme heat and loss of fluids are major causes of heat-related health problems, so you should avoid them.

You should drink plenty of fluids such as water, lemonade, buttermilk, rice water, and lassi to avoid becoming dehydrated. You should also avoid going outside during the hottest times of the day.

India’s Meteorological Service says you should take such liquids even if you’re not thirsty, as the goal is to stay properly hydrated, not necessarily to quench thirst. Here are some other tips –

  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored cotton clothing and apply appropriate sunscreen.
  • Cover your head with light colored scarves, caps or umbrellas.
  • Never leave anyone, including pets, in a parked car as it tends to overheat.
  • Always keep a bottle of water with you.

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