UPDATE (April 29, 2022):
A day after Pakistan experienced the hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere, the Ministry of Climate Change issued a heatwave alert to all provinces. According to the reports published by leading media outlets, South Asia is expected to face a severe heatwave this year. The temperatures across the country are also expected to rise by six to eight degrees Celsius above average.
“Pakistan has been facing an unexpected heatwave since March. Temperatures in the border areas of Pakistan and India are expected to rise to 49 to 50 degrees Celsius,” said Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman. “In March alone, rainfall was recorded at 62% less than normal. In the year 2018, Nawabshah became the hottest city in the world in the month of April when the mercury went above 50 degrees Celsius,” she added, explaining that frequent heatwaves are a sign of climate change.
It is also important to note that the Pakistan Meteorological Department has cited March 2022 as the hottest month since 1961.
With the summer finally here, the risk of heatstroke is at an all-time high, especially in cities like Karachi and Lahore, where there is almost no reprieve from the harsh summer sun wreaking havoc from April until the end of August. This is when you need to know about the best ways to keep your body cool and how to prevent heatstroke.
Let’s start with a basic description of heatstroke, followed by some ways to avoid it, the signs and symptoms of having heatstroke, and the methods to tackle it while you wait for professional help that will aid your recovery from heatstroke. We’ll also find out who is the most vulnerable to this condition.
What is Heatstroke?
The human body starts to lose energy at a gradual pace in the humid heat, particularly because we lose a lot of nutrients due to sweating. Although the process starts slowly, it can evolve into a full-blown heatstroke if it is not addressed and treated appropriately. In most cases, the body temperature of a person reaches 105°F (40.5°C), and the body is unable to cool down on its own.
Untreated heatstroke can harm a person’s brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, and can be life-threatening. Luckily, there are many ways to avoid and treat heatstroke, to keep our body temperatures between 35.5°C to 37.5°C, and protect our vital organs, so the body continues to function normally.
Pakistan is experiencing severe summer weather with each passing year due to climate change. The deadliest heatwave was witnessed in 2015 when the temperature lingered between 42-45°C and felt like 50°C for an entire week in the country’s largest city, Karachi.
A general lack of awareness amongst people coupled with the fact that it was also the month of Ramadan when many were fasting, and facing prolonged power outages and water shortages worsened the situation. About 40,000 people had their lives threatened by heatstroke that year, with over 1,200 deaths reported officially, most of which were in Karachi.
You can learn more about the causes and threats of heatwaves in Pakistan in our detailed guide on the topic.
How to Avoid Heatstroke
While we cannot control nature and the rising temperature, we can ensure that we are making every possible effort to stay safe and cool in the summer. The harsh heat can not only drain your energy, but also make you prone to infections, or cause vomiting, nausea, heat rash or prickly heat, as well as low blood pressure. With temperatures soaring over 40°C, you must take matters seriously and remain vigilant.
We’ve compiled some tips to avoid heatstroke so that you can take better care of yourself and your loved ones. Please keep the following suggestions in mind to beat the heat this season:
- Stay Hydrated
- Wear Light or Loose Clothing
- Stay Indoors
- Avoid Greasy Food
- Limit Strenuous Activities
- Take a Cold Shower
- Avoid Caffeine
- Optimise Your Fan
- Know Your Body’s Cooling Points
- Avoid Using or Being Near Any Heat Radiating Devices
Making you feel thirsty is the body’s way of telling you that you’re already close to dehydration. Thus, do not skip out on drinking plenty of water even before you feel thirsty since an increase in heat results in excessive sweating, which reduces electrolytes and energy from your body. Drinking water helps your body maintain its temperature and prevents heat stroke. Since it is Ramadan, drink plenty of fluids before sehri and after iftar, to make up for the lack of hydration during the day. Here are some refreshing drinks for the summer season.
Wear Loose Clothing
Tightly fitted clothes prevent an adequate supply of air to your body. Ideally, you should wear clothes that are loosely fitted and light, both in colour and material, such as pastel shades in fabrics like lawn or cotton. Remember to cover your whole body as the scorching sun rays can damage your exposed skin, too.
Well, with the lockdown in place, most of us are not leaving our homes, but if you have to head to work or to buy groceries for your family, try to limit direct exposure to the sun. Keep physical activity to a minimum as the more you move, the more heat is generated by your body. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses or a cap to protect yourself from the scorching heatwave.
Avoid Greasy Food
One of the best tips to avoid heatstroke is to avoid heat-generating foods like meat, eggs, and other proteins. Lower your salt consumption and focus more on salads and fruits. But it is equally vital for you to eat regularly and fuel your body with the nutrients it requires to fight the heat and keep you active. Here are some foods that will keep you cool in the summer.
Limit Strenuous Activities
Avoid doing any outdoor activity between 11 am and 3 pm if possible as the sun is at its peak during these times. If you love exercising, do it early in the morning or after the sun goes down to avoid sunstroke.
Take a Shower
Stepping into a cold-water shower is one of the most effective ways to reduce your body’s temperature. Alternatively, consider wetting your skin with a damp towel. It will instantly make you feel refreshed. A cool towel can also absorb sweat and prevent itchy skin and rashes. However, please refrain from stepping into a shower as soon as you return home from intense heat. Allow your body a chance to cool down a few degrees before going for a bath.
Coffee and tea contain high amounts of caffeine and promote dehydration. While drinking a cup before and after your fast is acceptable, as long as you are hydrating yourself with other fluids, excessive consumption of caffeine-laden drinks will make you thirsty quicker.
Optimise Your Fan
Replace your dimmer and capacitor before the summer season for the ideal functioning of your fans. You could also rotate the direction of your ceiling fan, as that will push the cool air down to keep your room at a suitable temperature. Aside from that, consider this neat trick to create a DIY room cooler at home.
Know Your Body’s Cooling Points
Your wrist, neck, ears, and feet are considered the cooling points of your body, and applying ice cubes or anything cool to them will help reduce your body’s temperature. These particular areas have a lot of nerves and nerve endings, and cooling them is equal to cooling down the whole body.
Avoid Using Any Heat Radiating Devices
Using heat-radiating devices such as hair straighteners or hair dryers can multiply the risk of getting a heat stroke as your body absorbs all the extra heat emitted from them. The same is true for laptops or mobile phones that generate heat while being used or during recharge.
Symptoms and Signs of Heatstroke
- Fever higher than 39.5°C
- Dry, red, or pale skin
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Confused, incoherent speech
- Aggressiveness or strange behaviour
- A general feeling of sickness or nausea
- Fast or shallow breathing
How to Curb the Effects of Heatstroke While You Wait for Help
Home treatment isn’t sufficient enough to treat heatstroke. Even with immediate treatment, it can be life-threatening or can result in serious, long-term complications. Seek emergency medical help as soon as you realise you’re feeling faint and nauseous due to the heat, and while you’re waiting for help to arrive, keep the following tips in mind:
- Slow down your physical movements
- Move to a shady spot outdoors or head indoors as soon as possible
- Drench yourself or the patient in cold water
- Wet the skin with water after removing as much clothing from the body as possible
- Take an ice bath if you can
- Fan yourself with anything you have in hand or move to a spot where you can feel a breeze from the fan
- Do not give the patient fluids to drink if they are not alert and fully conscious
- Position an unconscious person on their side to keep the airway clear
- Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back (These areas are rich with blood vessels and close to the skin. so cooling them may reduce body temperature)
- Monitor the body temperature and continue the cooling efforts until the body temperature drops below 38°C
- Seek medical attention if the condition doesn’t improve
People Who Are At a Greater Risk of Heatstroke
- Senior citizens
- People with serious respiratory illnesses
- Individuals on prescription medication
- Physically active individuals such as labourers or athletes
Ultimately, protecting yourself and recovering from heatstroke is all about assessing your symptoms and taking quick action to cool down a rapidly heating body to avoid complications. Keep reading more informative posts on Zameen Blog. You can also email us your views and comments at email@example.com.
UPDATE (March 15, 2022):
Most parts of the country are expected to experience an extreme heatwave this week.
“Due to a persistent high pressure in the upper atmosphere, the day temperatures are likely to remain unusually high in most parts of the country during the week,” the Pakistan Meteorological Department stated in its latest weather alert.
The Met department warned that temperatures will rise about 9 to 10 degrees Celsius higher than the “normal temperatures” in South Punjab, northern Balochistan, Kashmir and adjoining areas. Meanwhile, the mercury will shoot 7 to 8 degrees higher in Islamabad, upper and Central Punjab, lower Sindh, south Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, the weather conditions in Karachi will likely remain unaffected following the recent heatwave that sizzled the megalopolis.