Heatstroke: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
Heatstroke is very common this time of year as the summer heat is at its most prominent. Especially in the UAE, it’s possible to get heatstroke during any season because of its scorching weather. Heatstroke is an extremely concerning hazard as it can lead to many consequences and even be fatal.
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The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation rule stipulates that outdoors workers must be allowed to take a break from 12 pm to 3.30pm during the hot summer months. As the UAE can get as hot as 50 degrees this summer, now is the time to learn more about heatstroke and how to avoid it.
Causes of Heatstroke
Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature increases and is unable to regulate it due to the external temperature. It can lead to nausea, dehydration, and unconsciousness.
If it is left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage in the brain, lungs and heart, and fatality in the worst case. The problem with heatstroke is that you don’t notice it until it takes effect. This is why it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke, as well as how to prevent it.
Heatstroke can be caused by dehydration, lack of proper nutrition, exposure to hot environments for too long or strenuous work. Most people who get heat stroke usually have a combination of all of these causes.
Personal health conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart complications or mental health issues are also risk factors of heat stroke or heat-related complications.
Before heatstroke occurs, heat exhaustion happens first. When heat exhaustion occurs, this is when you need to treat it immediately. When the body reaches 40 degrees Celcius approximately, this is when heatstroke is most likely to occur.
Heat exhaustion is identifiable by:
- severe headaches and nausea
- heavy sweating
- rapid pulse
- cool, moist skin with goosebumps when in the heat
- muscle cramps
If you notice any of these things happening, it must be treated as an emergency as it can lead to heatstroke in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Heatstroke is well in motion when you lose consciousness and find it extremely difficult to breathe. Without immediate attention, it can lead to fatality.
Once you get heatstroke, not only can it cause permanent damage if you survive it, it can be very difficult to treat. This is why preparing your day, and knowing how to avoid heatstroke from happening is the best solution to stay safe this summer. Here are some tips you can follow to prevent the chances of heatstroke.
- Acclimate with the weather. In the UAE, most people are conditioned to bear the hot weather. If you’re an expatriate or notice that the summer is drastically warmer, avoid engaging in strenuous activity such as physical labour work or exercise. Let your body adjust to the weather, whether it be a couple of hours, days, or even weeks. Jumping straight into physical work can cause heatstroke.
- Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated replenishes the water lost through sweat. It helps to regulate your body temperature as well as providing you with the energy to work in hot and strenuous conditions. The colder the fluid, the better as it can help neutralize your body temperature as it will go up because of the hot weather. Sports drinks, coconut water, and drinks rich in electrolytes are good options. However, water works best.
- Wear loose-fitting. Make sure the clothes you wear are lightweight, fit loosely and don’t cause pressure or tightness against your body. Loose-fitting clothes also mean better air ventilation around your body, which can help your body to regulate its temperature. Multiple layers of clothing and tight fitted clothing will cause the opposite effect.
- Protect against sunburn. When sunburn occurs on your skin, your body will have a harder time regulating its temperature as well as cooling down and recovering from the effects of sunburns. Sunburns don’t just open a pathway for heat stroke, but also has its own list of possible health complications that develop from it. SPF sunscreen, hats, and sun umbrellas are always great in protecting your skin during the summer.
- Use air conditioning inside the car. If you work in an indoor environment, ensure that your air conditioner is set at a proper temperature that will keep you cool. The same goes for when you are inside a car as the inside can reach up to 20 degrees higher than its external environment. It may be a good idea to start your engine and leave the air-conditioner running for 5 minutes before entering. Though this may increase your expenses, it’s well worth it.
What to Do If Heatstroke Occurs?
If heat stroke occurs or its symptoms are apparent, treat it immediately and as a serious emergency. The person suffering from heatstroke should try and relax as well as seek help for people nearby. To understand more about heatstroke, heat-related health complications or advice on how to stay safe this summer, speak with your doctor.
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