With the recent spike in humidity across the country, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is urging residents to take extra precautions and safeguard themselves against heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse as a result of body overheating. It is one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.
Within the past week, the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital (HGH) has received between 30-40 heat exhaustion cases daily. “We are asking people, especially outdoor workers to take care at this period as we have seen a sudden surge in cases of heat exhaustion due to the sharp rise in humidity,” said Emergency Department (ED) Chairman, Prof Peter Cameron.
The total number of heat-related illnesses recorded in the ED in June and July were 118 and 77 cases respectively.
He explained that people who work outside are highly susceptible to heat exhaustion. “It is important to ensure people who are exposed to the sun and heat take rest at regular intervals between 10 am and 3 pm, which is the hottest period of the day because that is when we see more cases.”
According to Prof Cameron, the majority of patients being seen are young men, including those with underlying illnesses which aggravated their conditions. “Only a few of these patients required short stay at our facility because they have other health conditions aside the heat exhaustion. Otherwise, a good number are mild cases.”
“Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of working under high humidity or exercising. Possible heat exhaustion symptoms include: cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat; heavy sweating; faintness; dizziness; fatigue; weak, rapid pulse; low blood pressure upon standing; muscle cramps; nausea; and headache.”
Professor Cameron mentioned that every patient suffering from heat exhaustion was given prompt treatment including administering intravenous fluids and electrolytes to quickly rehydrate them.
“Colleagues should also watch for signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in their co-workers and once they discovered someone is in distress, they should take immediate action by giving them cold drinks; bringing them to a shaded and cool area.” He suggested that if the affected person does not improve or shows drowsiness or confusion, an ambulance should be called immediately.
“The sudden rise in heat stroke cases took everyone by surprise, but I must reiterate that cases in general are not on the rise this summer as compared to last year. It shows that most construction companies are complying with the government guidelines for outdoor workers.”
HMC will like to further urge anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of heat illnesses to seek urgent professional advice or dial 999 for the Ambulance Service.
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