Keeping it Cool
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
As the climate is now a lot warmer than we all would like to, it’s time for a quick reminder hot, is not the best thing to be right now (especially with COVID-19). If you do have a fever, you must get medical assistance from your local GP right away. However, there is another kind of hot that you should be worried about as well. No, it’s not your favourite actor or model, its heatstroke.
What is heatstroke?
Our bodies are miracles of bioengineering and the many autonomous processes it executes are truly amazing. One of such fantastic procedures is our body’s reaction to extreme heat. If you’re feeling sweaty during a hot afternoon, you can rest easily that your body is functioning exactly the way it should. The danger is when it doesn’t. As annoying and uncomfortable as sweat is, I’m sure you’re well aware that without it, we wouldn’t be able to maintain a steady body temperature. By letting sweat evaporate over the surface of our skin, heat is released from our bodies and we cool down. However, if you stay under the sun for too long while doing physically demanding activities, and maybe didn’t have enough water to drink, your body will start having trouble trying to manage the heat that you’re building up. If you don’t get into the shade and cool down when it happens, you experience what is known as heatstroke.
How do I know when it happens?
It doesn’t take a degree in medicine to understand when you’re having a heatstroke. The symptoms are pretty clear-cut and you will recognise that something is wrong straight away, thankfully, because if you let take action quickly, you can cause severe damage to your vital organs and possibly even die. If you do survive, you’ll have to live with permanent damage to your body. The first thing you would probably notice is slight dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, headaches, and maybe even vomiting. At this point, you’re experiencing what is known as heat exhaustion. If you don’t take action now, then things will start to get a lot worse, very quickly. If you haven’t been drinking a lot of water, then you would start to notice that you’ve stopped sweating, because your body has run out of water to sweat out. No sweat means your body will heat up even more, which is bad, really bad. You would start to have trouble standing up, feel weak all over. Muscle cramps can happen. As heatstroke continues, you’ll start to have trouble breathing, become disoriented, and maybe even delirious. Worst case scenario, you start to have seizures and lose consciousness.
What can I do?
If you do start to feel the early signs of heatstroke (which is a rarity because we don’t usually feel it until it’s too late, especially with sports and outdoor activities), get to some shade immediately. Sit them down in a comfortable position where you can lean against them. If you are having a hard time, get someone else to help you. Loosen up your clothes and let airflow inside. Now is not the time to bundle up. Then, find yourself a piece of cloth, soak it in water, and put it on your skin. The water will evaporate and help you cool down. Sip on some cool water (only water, no juices or soft drinks allowed) if you can. Don’t drink too fast or too much. A neat trick I learned is to hold a cold water bottle against your neck. That way, you’re cooling the blood flowing to your head, protecting your brain from any damage from the heat (yes, it can happen).
Seek medical attention
Once you know you are in a stable situation, call for medical help immediately, especially if you are an elderly individual or have a medical condition. This is not something you can brush off and walk away from.
Prevention is better than cure
The best thing you can do is to prevent heatstroke from ever happening. If it’s hot outside, don’t stay out in the sun too long. If you like playing sports or exploring the outdoors, make sure to take breaks, hydrate, and cool down in the shade often. Senior citizens and people with pre-existing medical conditions should be extra careful because they will be more at risk of catching heat stroke compared to others.
Stay safe, stay hydrated and keep an eye out
Once it is safe again to go outside and not risk being infected, be sure to have some awareness of what’s going on around you. There might just be a person suffering from heat exhaustion or worse and isn’t able to call out for help. Your actions can make a difference and even save lives. Just because the outdoor activity is now a big no-no, doesn’t mean that you don’t stand the chance of catching heatstroke though. The same goes for your family members. Share the message and make sure to hydrate well and live a healthy and active lifestyle, even when you’re hunkered down to protect yourself from COVID19. Also, remember that staying hydrated doesn’t mean drinking soft drinks or sugary juices since they will only dehydrate you faster. Water is your best friend. Stay safe, hydrated and most of all, be cool.