Heat-health alert! Heat stroke prevention tips

It’s summer again and many of us are taking advantage of the good weather to enjoy outdoor activities. Kaya uso na naman ang beach outings, going on picnics, camping, biking, and taking road trips. While spending time outdoors, being close to nature, and bonding with family and friends are all worthwhile activities, don’t forget to take proper precautions from the sun’s powerful rays.

According to the State Weather Bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the dry season in the country is expected to last until May. In line with this, the Department of Health (DOH) is reminding the public to take precautionary measures to avoid heat-related health concerns, especially heat stroke.

What is a heat stroke?

Heat stroke is defined by Mayo Clinic as “a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures.” It is considered the most severe form of heat injury which can happen if an individual’s body temperature rises to 40 Celsius or higher and cannot cool down. Heat stroke is most common during the hot summer months that’s why extra caution is highly recommended.

What are the causes or risk factors of heat stroke?

  • Hot weather
  • Physical exertion (e.g. exercise) in hot weather
  • Dehydration
  • Prolonged direct exposure to the sun

Who is at risk?

Individuals who are always exposed to the sun, such as traffic enforcers, street sweepers, gardeners, street vendors, and construction workers are at risk of heat stroke. In line with this, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) implements “heat stroke breaks” for its field personnel. Enforcers and street sweepers are prescribed to take turns leaving their posts for 30 minutes, depending on their schedules. Additional breaks may be taken if the heat index reaches 40 degrees Celsius or higher. Infants, seniors, athletes, and other people who work outdoors are also at risk. 

What are the symptoms?

The following are signs and symptoms of heat stroke based on Mayo Clinic and DOH.

  • High body temperature of 40 Celsius or higher, acquired using a rectal thermometer
  • Flushed skin
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Change in behavior or mental state such as slurred speech, confusion, agitation, delirium, seizures, and coma
  • Alteration in sweating (heat stroke due to hot weather may make the skin feel hot and dry to the touch while heat stroke due to strenuous exercise may make the skin feel dry or slightly moist)

What to do?

Keep in mind that heat stroke is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY so it’s vital that you bring the person immediately to the nearest hospital after performing emergency measures.

Emergency measures while waiting for emergency treatment:

  • Bring the individual to the nearest shade, indoor place, or air-conditioned area
  • Remove the person’s excess clothing
  • Help the person cool down – If you have access to a bathroom, place the person in a tub of water or under a cool shower. If you only have access to a hose or a faucet, spray the person with water or use a sponge with cool water. If there is available ice, put ice packs or cold, wet towels on the individual’s head, neck, armpits, and groin.

How to prevent heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a predictable and preventable health concern. You can take steps to avoid experiencing heat stroke, especially during summer.

With temperatures soaring as high as 46 Celsius (recorded in Catarman, Northern Samar on April 7, 2023), people are urged to be wary of the effects of extreme heat. Medicare Plus shares the following prevention tips to safeguard you and your loved ones from the risk of heat stroke.

  • Limit your time outdoors, especially during the hottest parts of the day (between 10 am to 3 pm). If possible, schedule outdoor tasks and strenuous activities at the beginning or toward the end of the day, when it’s cooler.
  • Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to avoid sunburn which can affect the body’s ability to cool itself.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Avoid coffee, tea, and soda.
  • Do not leave anyone in a car parked under the sun.

Stay protected from heat stroke

Heat stroke is predictable and preventable. Remember these heat stroke prevention tips to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially during the summer months when the heat is on. Heat stroke is an emergency. Get peace of mind from emergency situations by being health-care prepared.

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