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Everything you need to know about heat strokes: Do's and Don’ts

Everything you need to know about heat strokes: Dos and Don’ts

At least eleven people succumbed to heatstroke after they attended a large public gathering in the open in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, on Sunday.

While twenty people have been admitted to the hospital, three of whom are critically ill and dozens of others suffered from dehydration while standing in the heat.

The people were seen wearing scarves, caps, umbrella-hats, or kerchiefs, dupattas and headgears to escape the blistering heat that was around 42 degrees Celsius, to watch the event in which the Maharashtra Bhushan award was conferred on social worker Appasaheb Dharmadhikari by Home Minister Amit Shah. The program went on for nearly three hours in the afternoon.

What happens to the body during a heat stroke?

When our body is exposed to high temperatures and humidity, or when there is prolonged physical exertion at high temperatures, it gets overheated causing a heat stroke or sunstroke. A heat stroke is considered to be a medical emergency that requires prompt attention.

“When the body fails to sweat and is therefore unable to lose heat by evaporation, there is an increase in the core temperature of the body. If the body fails to cool down, its core temperature can shoot up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit within a few minutes. This can cause severe health implications including death,” said a doctor.

Persons suffering from heat exhaustion experience fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, hypotension (low blood pressure) and tachycardia (increased heart rate).

There were no heat wave warnings issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for Sunday.

According to the IMD, “qualitatively, heat wave is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to the human body when exposed”. In quantitative terms, the IMD’s definition is “based on the temperature thresholds over a region in terms of actual temperature or its departure from normal”.

For coastal stations (like Mumbai), the IMD’s criteria for a heat wave is as follows: “When maximum temperature departure is 4.5 degrees Celsius or more from normal,…provided actual maximum temperature is 37 degrees Celsius or more.”

Mumbai’s Santa Cruz observatory recorded 34.1 degrees as the maximum temperature on Sunday, while the weather observatory at the Thane-Belapur Industries Association recorded a high of 38 degrees Celsius. There is no IMD observatory or Automatic Weather Station (AWS) in Panvel (Navi Mumbai) that would give local data for Kharghar, an IMD official said.

“It is not abnormal to record such temperatures during this time of the year… Several areas in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region recorded temperatures between 39 degrees and 41 degrees Celsius on Sunday, but this was only around 1 degree higher than the normal,” the official said.

Apart from the long exposure to heat in the open ground, physical exertion may have had a role to play, doctors said regrading why the attendees suffered heat strokes.

People had travelled from neighbouring districts such as Thane and Palghar to attend the program, and the exhaustion may have aggravated their condition, they said.

“We will have to check the travel and medical histories of the individual deceased to make a precise assessment,” a doctor said. “Elderly patients, patients with high cholesterol and cardiac illnesses are more prone to suffering heat strokes,” the doctor added.

Another doctor pointed out that the leaders and politicians had shade above their heads, but the large crowd of attendees did not. “As I have seen in the photos, there was no shade… It also needs to be checked if drinking water was available for the huge crowd,” he said.

“It is essential to drink water regularly while attending such gatherings in the open. Also, it is always advisable to avoid exposure between noon and 3 pm.”

It is better to stay indoors during extreme temperatures, especially between 11-3 pm.

Taking care of a few things will help save you from a heat stroke

* Stay hydrated. Drink water as often as possible, even if not thirsty. Always carry water with you.

* Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, and porous cotton clothes. Cover yourself well.

* Use sunglasses, umbrellas or hats.

* If you are aware of underlying health issues, avoid standing under the Sun for long.

* Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks. They are not a substitute for water. Alternatively, you can carry ORS and homemade drinks.

* Avoid high-protein food.

* Use a damp cloth on your head.

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