Heat Wave and Heat Stroke

Hot days are here. Some like it hot. Others find it unbearable. But hot days can be dangerous. Especially during a heat wave.

What is a heat wave?

Three or more consecutive days during which the air temperature is more than 32.2 degrees Celsius. Because of the global warming, the intensity of the heat waves is expected to increase over the years to come.

What is a heat stroke?

“Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness characterized by an elevated core body temperature that rises above 40 degrees Celsius and central nervous system dysfunction that results in delirium, convulsions, or coma”, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Extreme heat can cause other minor to moderate ill effects called heat stress and heat exhaustion. If not controlled or prevented then these conditions can lead to heat stoke and eventually death.

Heat strokes can occur due to exposure to high environmental temperature or from strenuous exercise.

The NEJM article says that the most complications of heat stoke are those falling within the category of multiorgan-dysfunction syndrome. That means many systems of the body are affected – brain (encephalopathy), muscles (rhabdomyolysis), kidneys (acute renal failure), lungs (acute respiratory injury), blood (bleeding complications).

Who is prone to heat stroke?

Usually very young or elderly persons and in those who have no access to air conditioning, says the article. It is also common among persons with chronic mental disorders or heart and lung problems.

How can we prevent heat stroke?

Heat stroke can be prevented. Authors of the NEJM article propose the following actions to prevent heat stroke:

-acclimatize yourself to heat
-schedule outdoor activities during cooler times of the day
-reduce your level of physical activity
-drink additional water
-consume salty foods
-increase the amount of time you spend in air-conditioned environments.

We cannot change nature. But we can adapt to our environment and create conditions to protect ourselves.

Prevention is better than cure! Enjoy the summer and stay cool!

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