The heat is on! The air conditioners are going crazy! And the people are asking: Hot enough for you?
Many of us have been waiting for this kind of weather. But is it healthy? Is it safe?
Some of you may remember the heat wave of Chicago in 1995. Many people died. About 20 years ago, heat also claimed the lives of 88 people in Memphis, Tenn. Most of these deaths are due to heat stroke. Heat stoke is dangerous and deadly but fortunately, preventable.
The vast majority of people affected by the immense heat are the elderly with medical problems such as mental illness, lung diseases, or heart disease. Social isolation is another factor. People who live alone and /or are confined to bed are at higher risk compared to those who have access to transportation, nurse visitors or social services, Having an air conditioner helps. But not many elderly people can afford it.
Memphis has adopted a protocol to prevent death from dehydration and heat stroke amongst the sick and elderly and the public in general. At the beginning of summer, officials organize surveillance of emergency departments in the area to see if heat-related visits have increased.
Once temperature starts to rise, media print or broadcast general public advice to increase fluid intake, to reduce physical activity, and to seek medical help for heat related problems.
Visiting nurses, Meals on Wheels workers, and letter carriers help out in finding people who live in isolation and are at increased risk of heat stroke.
Our temperatures may not rise to a level of heat waves seen in Chicago or Memphis but the danger is still there for people of any age group who do not maintain adequate fluid intake during summer months. Especially people with medical conditions.
Effective treatment for heat stroke depends on rapid diagnoses and rapid cooling. Otherwise, a chain of events will lead to irreversible injury and death.
The blistering sun is also damaging to our skin if it is exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time on a regular basis. The damage is cumulative, starting with sunburn and progressing over a period of time to skin cancer.
There are three types of skin cancers: Basal Cell Cancer, Squamous Cell Cancer and Melanoma. First two are very common and can invade local tissues but are not fatal. Melanoma is not that common but can be fatal if not detected early and excised.
Can we prevent skin cancer? Yes! The Canadian Cancer Society recommends the following preventive measures:
1. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
2. Wear protective clothings, such as long-sleeved shirts, and wide brimmed hats.
3. Use a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher to absorb ultraviolet rays.
4. Seek prompt treatment of any skin abnormality.
Summer is time for out door activities and fun. Children are out of school. Many adults take holidays during this time to enjoy family life. When we are having fun, it is hard to remember the dos and the donts. So let us make it simple by remembering two facts:
1. Skin is the largest organ of our body and has many important functions to protect us from environment.
2. About 60 percent of our body is water. Water and salt is vital to the survival of our cells and tissues.
So let us treat our skin with respect and keep our systems well lubricated with water and have fun!
Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!