The national capital region will again witness heatwave conditions from Tuesday, 10 May, as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted the maximum temperature to likely be around 44 degrees Celsius.
As a heatwave sweeps across India, and the weather department predicts higher than normal temperatures for central, western, and northern India, the Centre issued a list of dos and don’t and asked the states and Union Territories (UTs) to review their healthcare preparedness.
What are the signs of a heatstroke? What can you do to prevent heat-related problems? What should you not do? Who is most vulnerable to such problems?
What are the ‘danger signs’ of a heatstroke?
According to the Centre, ‘danger signs’ of a heatstroke in adults include:
Altered mental sensation with disorientation, confusion and agitation, irritability, ataxia (a disorder that affects coordination, balance, and speech), seizure or coma
Hot, red, and dry skin
Core body temperature being greater than 40 degree Centigrade or 104 degree Fahrenheit
Anxiety, dizziness, fainting, and light headedness
Muscle weakness or cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Rapid heartbeat or rapid and shallow breathing
In children, the signs include:
Refusal to accept feed
Decreased urine output
Dry oil mucosa and absence of tears or sunken eyes
Lethargy or altered sensorium
Bleeding from any site
What should be done while waiting for help in case of a heatstroke?
Stating that if you find someone with high body temperature and either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating, you should call 108 or 102 immediately. The government advisory also says that while waiting for help, “cool the person right away” by:
Moving the affected person to a cool place
Applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing
Fanning the person as much as possible
What can you do to prevent heat-related problem?
The general population should keep heat-related problems at bay by:
Staying hydrated, which includes drinking enough water even if not thirsty, carrying drinking water while travelling, using Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) and home-made drinks like lemon water, butter milk, fruit juices with some added salt
Staying covered, by wearing thin, loose, cotton garments (preferably light-coloured), covering one’s head during exposure to direct sunlight, wearing shoes or chappals while going out in the sun
Staying alert and updated on accurate, local weather news
Staying indoors as much as possible, and limiting and rescheduling outdoor activity to cooler times of the day (morning and evening)
Keeping your home cool, using curtains, shutters or sunshade and opening the windows at night
Trying to remain on lower floors during the day
Using fan, damp cloths to cool down the body
What should you not do?
According to the government advisory, in order to prevent heat-related problems:
Avoid going out in the sun, especially between 12 pm and 3 pm.
Avoid strenuous activities while outside in the afternoon
Do not step out barefoot
Avoid cooking during peak summer hours and keep the cooking area adequately ventilated by opening doors and windows
Avoid consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, carbonated soft drinks or drinks with large amounts of sugar
Avoid high protein food and do not eat stale food
Do not leave children or pets in parked vehicle as temperature inside a vehicle can get dangerous
What have employers been advised to ensure?
Employers have been advised by the government to:
Provide cool drinking water at workplace and remind employees to drink a cup of water every 20 minutes or more frequently
Caution workers to avoid direct sunlight
Provide shaded work area (temporary shelters can also be created for this purpose)
Schedule strenuous and outdoor jobs to cooler hours of the day
Increase the frequency and length of rest breaks for outdoor activities
Stay alert and updated on accurate, local weather news, and act accordingly
Assign additional workers or slow down the work pace
Ensure everyone is properly acclimatised, as it takes weeks to acclimatise to a hotter climate. This includes no work for more than three hours a day for the first five days and gradually increasing the amount and time of work
Train workers to recognise factors that may increase the risk of developing a heat-related illness as well as the signs and symptoms of heat stress
Start a “buddy system” as people may not notice their own symptoms
Trained first aid providers should be available and an emergency response plan should be kept ready in case of any heat-related illness
Organise awareness campaigns for employees, distribute information pamphlets and organise training for employees and workers regarding health impacts of extreme heat, and how they can protect themselves during high temperatures
Install temperature and forecast display at the workplace
And what about workers/employees?
Advice for workers and employees include:
Wear light-coloured clothes if working outdoors, preferably long sleeve shirt and pants, and cover the head to prevent exposure to direct sunlight
Make sure you are properly acclimatised to a hotter climate. Do not work for more than three hours in one day for the first five days and gradually increase the amount and time of work
Pregnant workers and workers with medical conditions or those on certain medication should discuss with their physicians about working in the heat
Who is most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and heat stress?
Pointing out that anyone can suffer from heat stress or heat-related illnesses, the government advisory said that some people are at greater risk than others, and should therefore be given additional attention. These include:
Infants and young children
People working outdoors
People who have a mental illness
People who are physically ill, especially with a heat disease or high blood pressure
People coming from cooler climates to a hot climate: in this case, you should allow one week’s time for your body to acclimatise to heat and should drink plenty of water
Anything else you should keep in mind?
Yes. According to the government elderly or sick people, living alone, should be supervised and their health monitored on a daily basis.