New Delhi: Summer is a great time to get outside and explore nature’s beauty. But, the season may also raise your risk of suffering from various health issues, particularly dehydration, upset stomach and heat illness. Basically, heat illness is a spectrum of disorders – such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Heat illness is caused owing to the overheating of the body.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness however, young children, older adults, obesity and people with certain conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease, etc. Heat illness can occur in two ways, exertional and non-exertional.
Types of heat illness
Exertional heat illness: Tends to occur owing to prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This condition is mainly common in policemen, military men, athletes, and youngsters since they spend long hours in a hot and humid climate.
Non-exertional heat illness: It is commonly seen in older people who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and who are bed-ridden and cannot adapt well to increasingly hot temperatures.
What are the signs and symptoms of heat illness?
Heat exhaustion: Symptoms may include heavy sweating, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, irritability, pale skin colour, thirst, fainting, etc.
Heat cramps: Symptoms include heavy sweating during intense exercise, muscle pain or spasms.
Heatstroke: One may suffer from heatstroke if he/she exhibits symptoms such as – cramps, fainting, nausea and vomiting. Hence, you should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the symptoms.
What causes heat illness?
There are many factors which can cause heat-related illness such as strenuous exercise in hot weather, wearing heavy or excessive clothing, lack of hydration, poor physical fitness, drinking alcohol, high body temperature, etc. Taking antihypertensive, antihistamines and antidepressants can increase your risk of heat illness.
How to safeguard yourself from heat illness
You can prevent or lower your risk of heat illness by keeping the body cool and staying hydrated. Here are a few tips suggested by Dr Shirish M Hastak, Regional Director, Neurology, Stroke & Neurocritical Care, Global Hospital, Mumbai, to help you stay healthy and hearty during the hotter days:
- Acclimatize: Try to get yourself accustomed to new climate or weather conditions. Do not exercise or venture out in hot weather if you are not used to it. Do not overexert yourself.
- Stay hydrated: It is the need of the hour. Drinking a lot of water will create more fluid available for sweating and help maintain normal body temperature. So drink a lot of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Bid adieu to alcohol: Do not drink alcohol or caffeine-containing beverages as they can dehydrate you.
- Wear loose clothes that are light: Your body will not be able to cool properly if you wear heavy clothes or overdress during summer. Wear a cap or a hat during the hotter days. Stay away from direct sunlight.
- Stay physically active: Make sure that you exercise on a daily basis without fail. You can walk, run or do any type of exercise of your choice. This will also help you maintain optimum weight, thereby keeping you fit and lower your risk of heat-related illness.