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Monday June 24, 2024

Heat wave can play havoc with the body

By Muhammad Qasim
May 23, 2024
A mother holds her child whos covered with a cloth as a protective measure against heatwave. — Reuters/File
A mother holds her child who's covered with a cloth as a protective measure against heatwave. — Reuters/File

Islamabad: As an intense heat wave is hitting most parts of the country including this region, it is crucial to take precautionary measures not only to avoid heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration but also to avoid damages, the exposure to extreme heat can cause to the brain, heart, skin, kidneys and other crucial organs.

Exposure to sunlight for a longer period of time during the intense heat wave can overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature leading to heat stroke. Without immediate management, heat stroke can have deadly implications. In extreme hot weather, the body loses fluids rapidly through sweating in an attempt to cool down, leading to severe dehydration. This can cause symptoms like extreme thirst, dry mouth, reduced urine output, and in severe cases, confusion, dizziness, and fainting. Studies reveal that the condition can be fatal if adequate steps are not taken well in time to cool down the body.

Experts say that prolonged exposure to intense heat can cause the body temperature to rise dangerously high, resulting in hyperthermia, which can cause a significant damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, skin and muscles leading to even long-term health issues or death if not treated in time.

Experts are of the view that high environmental temperatures particularly under strong sunlight can cause severe skin damage, including sunburn and in extreme cases, second-degree burns. Exposure to extreme heat can cause dehydration that occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Dehydration impairs the body functions affecting the crucial organs badly. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dark urine, reduced urination, fatigue, and dizziness. Severe dehydration can cause kidney damage, electrolyte imbalances, and shock.

Exposure to intense heat can affect the cardiovascular system badly causing an extra stress. Studies reveal that to dissipate heat, blood vessels dilate (expand), and the heart pumps more vigorously to increase blood flow to the skin’s surface and the additional workload on the heart can exacerbate existing heart conditions and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Individuals with cardiovascular diseases, the elderly, and those with hypertension are particularly at high risk of heart attacks and stroke in extreme hot weather conditions.

Studies also reveal that high temperatures can worsen the air quality by increasing the concentration of ground-level ozone and other pollutants. In extreme hot weather conditions, the poor quality of air can irritate the respiratory system and aggravate conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

According to health experts, one should follow certain preventive measures to mitigate the adverse health effects of extreme heat. One should stay hydrated and drink plenty of water even if he or she is not feeling thirsty. One should stay cool and spend time in cooler places during the peak heat hours. Use fans, take cool showers, and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Avoid strenuous activities, limit outdoor activities particularly during the hottest hours of the day. If one needs to be outside in the hottest hours, he or she should take frequent breaks in the shade and drink water regularly. The most important thing is to monitor the vulnerable population around. One should keep an eye on the elderly, children, and those with chronic health issues, as they are more vulnerable to life-threatening heat-related illnesses.