Doha 22 July 2018
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding the public to protect themselves and their families, especially young children and the elderly, from heat-related illnesses caused by high temperatures and high humidity.
Dr. Mahmoud Younis, Assistant Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement with HMC’s Hamad International Training Center (HITC), says the central nervous system, specifically the hypothalamus, is responsible for regulating temperature in the body.
“Just as a thermostat adjusts the temperature inside your home, the nervous system regulates your body’s temperature. When your body loses its ability to self-regulate temperature, you risk developing a heat illness,” said Dr. Younis.
The elderly, people taking medications that increase their sensitivity to sunlight, and individuals who are exercising or doing physical activity outdoors for long periods of time, are the most susceptible to developing a heat-related illness. Dr. Younis explains that the most serious form of heat illness, heatstroke, is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment. Left untreated, heatstroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles and lead to serious long-term complications and even death.
Headaches, stomach cramps, and nausea can indicate dehydration and are often the first signs of a heat illness. Other common symptoms include muscle pain, fatigue, nervousness, flushing or redness of the skin, shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, and difficulty concentrating.
Dr. Younis says that while heat exhaustion does not always lead to heatstroke, it is a warning sign and it is important to be vigilant for symptoms. However, he notes that exposure to the sun can have many benefits, including boosting the body’s vitamin D supply and improving bone health.
“Avoid going out between 10am and 3pm when the sun is usually at its hottest. Heat-related illness can progress rapidly, so any individual who is showing signs of a heat-related illness should immediately get out of the sun and into a shaded area (ideally air-conditioned). It is essential to lower the body temperature by removing any heavy clothing and applying a cold compress, and to rehydrate by replenishing water the body has lost due to excessive sweating,” said Dr. Younis.
Dr. Younis also warns about the dangers of sunburn, noting that while the redness, pain, and swelling are all signs of inflammation and can be very uncomfortable, severe sunburns can have serious long-term health complications.
To help prevent heat-related illness, Dr. Younis recommends being prepared. He says to plan ahead by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and other high-water-content foods, wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose, clothing, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen. He also recommends that individuals who have a pre-existing medical condition ask their doctor for advice on how to manage the heat.
He says it is important to remember that the elderly, young children and individuals who work outdoors are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and need special care during hot weather. He says anyone who is experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness should seek medical attention, and those who are experiencing signs of heatstroke should get urgent medical care, or call 999 for HMC’s Ambulance Service.