Dr Saeed Khan of the Royal Bahrain hospital gives his tips for summer survival
Time Out Bahrain staff
Have many people been admitted to hospital so far this summer for heat exhaustion? The statistics aren’t out yet, and the sad thing is that these numbers are not what matter, since many people don’t go to the hospital when they suffer from heat exhaustion. It’s recommended that you should at the very least visit your family doctor for a check-up if you’ve had this.
Is it a big problem and should we take it seriously? What are the symptoms? Everyone should take it seriously, because heat exhaustion on its own is bad for anyone, but it’s extremely dangerous if it progresses into a heat stroke. Initially, you’d probably feel dizziness, occasionally confusion. Profuse sweating, clammy skin, headaches and weakness are what normally follow soon after. If you experience nausea, a fast and weak pulse or muscle cramps, you will know that the heat exhaustion has progressed.
How do you go about treating heat exhaustion? The first thing to do is to cool off. The person suffering from heat exhaustion should be taken to a cool or air conditioned area. Loosen the clothes, and try rubbing cold water on the skin. Try to get it on the overheated areas such as the neck, the top of the head, the back and the chest. Other cooling measures, such as waving fans or placing ice cold wet towels would work as an added measure. Of course, a contributing factor is dehydration, so it is good to drink non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages, such as water or sports drinks. In extreme cases, a hospital would place an IV drip (intravenous fluid) to sort the situation. As for the muscle cramps and pain, if they do not lessen once indoors and cooled off, a simple prescription analgesic would solve the problem.
What precautions should people take to help avoid it? Clothes that are loose, light in weight and light-coloured are the first step. Protecting your head or other exposed skin is next. A wide-brimmed hat or even an umbrella would protect a person. Sunscreen and sunblock should be applied in the morning and then every three hours if you’re going outside, and don’t perform any strenuous activities if you are. If you are staying hydrated, remember that you should be drinking eight glasses of fluids, such as water or juice, a day. Also be aware that certain medications might affect the body’s ability to stay hydrated or respond to heat. Medications used to treat high blood pressure, heart problems, or alleviate symptoms of allergies are included in this list, so be sure to check with your doctor. Finally, remember that suddenly moving from somewhere very hot to an extremely cold environment increases the risk, so don’t blast the A/C too high in the car once you’re in – increase it gradually.
In Ramadan, it will still be hot and many will not be drinking in the day – what precautions should they take? The first problem does not come from hydration during the day, but it comes from lack of it the evening before. Drink enough water then and as soon as eating time begins, replacing lost fluids. Stay away from salty food, as well as anything fried and spicy, which may lead to heartburn and indigestion. Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.
A/C is often seen as a cure, but are there any health problems attributed to this? Air-conditioning definitely makes the heat bearable, but there are a few health problems. If the central air-conditioner is not maintained properly it could spread harmful micro-organisms.
Should any extra care with children be taken in the heat? The reason children are more at risk is because they don’t produce as much sweat as adults do. All the aforementioned preventive measures should be taken. Royal Bahrain Hospital (17 246 897)