With the rise in temperatures, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is urging residents of Qatar to start taking precautions to safeguard themselves against heat-related illnesses (HRI), such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
HRI occurs when a person’s body temperature rises above normal, due to prolonged exposure to heat in soaring temperatures, particularly as a result of high humidity and strenuous physical exercise.
Depending on the extent of the illness, which ranges from mild to extreme, an individual may experience symptoms like muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating, light-headedness, and extreme fatigue.
The body’s inability to cope with the heat can result in mild HRIs such as heat cramps and episodes of fainting, but can also advance to more severe conditions, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
Senior Consultant at Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Emergency Department (ED), Dr. Saad Al-Nuaimi, emphasized that in order to avert the adverse effects of heat and stay safe, individuals should take certain preventive measures in advance.
“The most important step is to keep track of weather forecasts and stay informed of any extreme heat alerts. This can help people plan their activities safely and avoid going outdoors when it’s too hot,” he advised. He added that: “It’s important for people to know the symptoms of HRI, as it can enable them to take action quickly and seek emergency care.”
During high temperatures, the body tends to lose fluids through sweat. “It is highly recommended that people increase their water intake and drink at least two to four cups of water every hour, while working or exercising outdoors, even when they are not thirsty. Individuals can also drink fruit or vegetable juices but should avoid consuming liquids that contain high amounts of sugar,” Dr. Al-Nuaimi stressed.
As a defensive measure, people should also ensure they remain in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible and avoid direct sunlight exposure, said Dr. Al-Nuaimi. “To help the body remain cool, it is better to wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitted garments, and take regular cool baths,” he suggested.
Treatment for HRI focuses on cooling the body and rehydrating it through oral or intravenous fluid, Dr. Al-Nuaimi noted. “Such cases are typically seen in late April and early May and the peak incidence is in July and August where, on average, about 300 cases are observed at HGH in a month,” he stated.
“Patients visiting the ED are triaged using one of the most robust triage systems, and emergency caregivers ensure all patients receive prompt care, by prioritizing those who require immediate medical intervention. Patients and families are also educated about how to prevent future occurrences of the condition.”
HMC is also urging anyone who experiences signs and symptoms of severe HRI to seek urgent medical assistance or dial 999 for an ambulance.
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