It’s almost summer once again. Temperatures in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines are expected to go up in a few weeks. The Department of Health (DOH) has been warning the public against the dangers of heat stroke for many consecutive years now as summer approaches. Over the years, temperature in the Philippines has reached 36-42°C.
What is heat stroke? It is a medical condition wherein the body temperature reaches very high levels (~40°C) due to constant heat exposure. It is usually in combination with dehydration. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. If untreated, it can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death. Most commonly, heat stroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as cramps, syncope and exhaustion. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it can also affect healthy young athletes and anyone who is exposed to prolonged heat. Special precautions should be made for infants and children up to age 4 and adults over age 65, because these age groups adjust to heat more slowly than other people. Patients with particular disease are also at higher risk to have heat strokes – those with hypertension, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, mental illness, alcoholism, and those with fever. Those taking particular medications are also at risk – diet pills, anti hypertensive medications, methamphetamines and anti-depressants.
What do we need to do to avoid heat stroke? Drink lots of water (versus iced tea, soda, coffee and alcoholic drinks), keep indoors, avoid long direct exposure to sunlight, and wear thin and loose and light-colored clothes. Anything that will help cool your body down is a good measure to prevent heat stroke. What if there are signs of heat stroke already? Go the extra mile and apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin and neck. These are the areas rich in blood vessels close to the skin. And cooling them may reduce body temperature. Remember, always keep cool!