Guidelines to beat heat exhaustion, sunburn

Dr Farah Ingale, Internal Medicine Specialist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, and Dr Sanjay Shah, a Consultant Physician & Internist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, share their insights on how to tackle this scorching heat and stay safe

man sipping water
Image Source: Google

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) recently issued a heat wave warning in north Maharashtra, and the maximum temperature reached closer to 41 degrees Celsius, Mumbaikar’s must be equipped to tackle the scorching heat.

While most people prefer to stay indoors when the sun is at the top, many are forced to step outside for various purposes. As the temperatures are expected to remain high, it is important to take preventive steps to tackle the heat-related ailments, particularly dehydration and heat exhaustion, which could lead to heat strokes.

While senior citizens, children, outdoor workers, and athletes are most susceptible to heat stroke, it is imperative that everyone exercises caution!

Staying outdoors for long hours can lead to heat exhaustion and sunburn. If you are experiencing either of the two, follow these first-aid steps:

In the case of heat exhaustion:

  • Move into a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Remove excessive clothing, and make sure your skin is exposed to air as much as possible.
  • Cool your body by spraying cold water, and fan yourself to help lessen body temperature.
  • Rub on ice packs on your armpits and on the back of the neck to avoid itching.
  • Do not take medicines, such as Aspirin, to bring down a high body temperature that can occur due to heat exhaustion. There could be a worse reaction to these medicines.
  • Consume sufficient amounts of fluids 1ltr-2ltr in 1 to 2 hours, to keep yourself hydrated.

If untreated, this medical emergency can lead to sunstroke, which can be fatal. Sunstroke sets in when body temperature goes beyond 40 degree Celsius. Primary treatment also includes leg raising, as many patients may be having Hypotension.

In the case of sunburn:

  • Relax your burned skin with a wet washcloth, or take a shower and pat your skin dry. Be gentle while doing this, as it may be painful.
  • Apply lotion such as Aloe Vera or use a Hydrocortisone cream to tackle the itch. Do not use any cream that contains Petroleum, Benzocaine, or Lidocaine. These ingredients can aggravate the skin irritation.
  • If the sunburn is painful, take Vitamin E, Vitamin C and antioxidants to relieve the pain.
  • Sunburn can dehydrate out your body. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • It will take time for sunburn to heal. Cover your skin with clothing when you go outside.
  • See a doctor, if you have blisters, or if you get a fever or chills.
  • Even eyes are at risk of sunburn and need to protect them by using sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Don’t pop the blisters, as they could get infected.

What are the preventive measures?

  • You can’t change the climate, but there are some things you can do to ease the risk for heat exhaustion:
  • Wear lightweight and light-coloured clothes, as dark colours attract and absorb heat, which may raise your body temperature.
  • Avoid going outdoors between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Cover your head with a scarf or a cap to keep the sun off, as it can help control body temperature.
  • Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated, carry a water bottle with you at all times.
  • When it is hot outside, limit your outdoor workouts to early morning or evening before the sun is out in its full force.
  • Swimming is also a good way to get exercise when it’s hot outside.
  • Never stay in a hot and closed car, even for a few minutes. Temperatures in cars can rise quickly. Refrain from keeping kids or animals unattended in cars.
  • Protect your skin by using a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more when exposed to the sun. Sunscreen should be put on 15 to 30 minutes before you are in the sun, and reapplied every hour to an hour and a half.