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How to combat heatwaves? Karnataka issues heatwave advisory
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How to combat heatwaves? Karnataka issues heatwave advisory

Drinking water even when you are not thirsty helps in staying hydrated. Including fresh fruit juices, oral rehydration solution, seasonal fruits and vegetables is a must
Older adults, infants, and pregnant women need a lot more water than other people and are more prone to inadequate water replacement and heat strokes.
Water loss in the body lowers the blood pressure resulting in less blood going to the kidney to get filtered. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health)

With the early onset of summer heatwave and increasing temperatures, on March 28, the Karnataka state government issued an advisory to combat extreme heat in the state. As per the data with the Indian Meteorological department, the state capital recorded 36.4 degree Celsius on March 29, which is the highest in the last five years.

Being exposed to high temperatures can induce heat stress leading to heat-related illnesses such as heat strokes and migraines. Staying well hydrated is the key to combat heatwaves, say experts.

Dinesh Gundu Rao, health minister shared a post on X and said that summer heat was intensifying day by day in the state, and people are struggling to cope with the excessive heat. “The maximum temperature has hovered around 40 degrees for the past month, leading to a surge in hospital visits due to various heat-related issues such as sunstroke, migraines, and skin problems. Additionally, there has been a significant increase in bacterial and viral infections,” his post read.

The state advisory to the employers stresses to schedule outdoor activities before 11 am or after 4 pm and avoid any outdoor exposure between these hours. “Carry a water bottle while stepping out, take frequent breaks and rest in the shade. When temperatures are high, use a cool, wet cloth on your body or take a cool bath,” the advisory read.

Due to excess heat, the body loses a lot of surface water. “When the surface temperature goes up, one tends to sweat a lot and lose both salt and water in the body causing dehydration,” says Dr Pramod V Satya, consultant – Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospitals, Millers Road, Bangalore.

What happens to the body during the heatwave?

Water loss in the body lowers the blood pressure resulting in less blood going to the kidney to get filtered, explains Dr Satya. “When the blood pressure falls, the perfusion of the organs from the muscles to the kidney and the brain, all of them get affected because of dehydration.  This extreme dehydration can cause a heat stroke where the brain, the kidney, and the muscles suffer because of less water or less blood supply,” he explained.

Older adults, infants, and pregnant women need a lot more water than other people and are more prone to inadequate water replacement and heat strokes. Speaking about the common mistakes that people make during heatwaves, Dr Satya says, “People living in very hot areas who work from morning to evening outdoors, don’t hydrate or take enough fluids resulting in losing a lot of water due to the sweat. The same with children who play in the hot sun for a long time.”

The brain and the nerves are very sensitive. “They have very low fat and sugar reserves. Whenever there is dehydration, getting headaches, aggravation of previous migraine headaches are all very common,” adds Dr Satya.

How to prepare for heatwaves?

Apart from drinking water, include fresh fruit juices, oral rehydration solution, seasonal fruits and vegetables, even when you’re not thirsty as they have the required salts and electrolytes that are needed during summer.

Dr Satya says that to avoid water loss in the body, one can reduce the body temperature by reducing sweating. “Choose loose and breathable clothes, stay in well-ventilated rooms, keep yourself as cool as possible and increase water intake,” he said.

Limit direct sun exposure inside the house by keeping windows and curtains closed during the day, especially on the sunny side of the house. Open them up at night to let cooler air in.

Experts say that it is best to avoid high-protein food and street food as they cause dehydration and foodborne diseases. “Don’t eat vegetables or fruits that have already been cut,” Dr Satya said.

Tips to combat heatwave

  • Consume homemade drinks like lemon water, butter milk/lassi, and fruit juices with some added salt.
  • Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables with high water content like water melon, muskmelon, orange, grapes, pineapple, cucumber, lettuce or other locally available fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay covered: Wear thin loose, cotton garments preferably light coloured
  • Cover your head: Use an umbrella, hat, cap, towel and other traditional head gears during exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Wear shoes or chappals while going out in the sun.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • If going outdoor, limit your outdoor activity to cooler times of the day i.e., morning and evening
  • Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day. (Repetitive as the point above)

Heatwave and dehydration can cause serious complications

Heat-related illness include heat rash, heat oedema (swelling of feet and ankles), heat cramps (muscle cramps), heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stress may also exacerbate chronic diseases like cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney disease.

According to Dr Satya, high temperature and dehydration affect the muscles and the brain which doesn’t get enough blood and nutrients. As a result, most of the time heat stroke results in heavy headaches, irritability, mental instability, confusion, disturbances, sometimes even seizures, altered sensorium and severe muscle myalgias, muscle pains because the blood doesn’t reach the muscles. Hence all these can easily be prevented by preventing dehydration, he stressed.

Takeaways

Karnataka government has issued a heatwave advisory to the employers in the state restricting outdoor activities between 11 am to 4 pm. Being exposed to high temperatures can induce heat stress leading to heat-related illnesses such as heat strokes and migraines. Staying well hydrated is the key to combat heatwaves.

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