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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Doctors see rise in patients due to heat, caution about vulnerables

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New Delhi: With temperature hitting record highs in Delhi, doctors say, there is an increase in the number of patients coming with complications caused due to heat exhaustion.

Heatstroke, which is a severe form of heat exhaustion that is denoted by high temperature, loss of consciousness, even bleeding or disseminated cardiovascular coagulation, is less common, say doctors.

Our body fights extreme heat by sweating. In extreme conditions, the body cannot dissipate enough heat leading to quickened metabolic activity. Diabetics, the elderly and children are most vulnerable to get heatstroke, said a doctor.

“We are seeing many patients suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. This can disturb the electrolyte levels leading to disorientation, altered sensorium,” one of the doctors at Safdarjung Hospital said. He added that one should drink plenty of fluids to beat the heat. “Those undertaking heavy exercise in a hot environment should drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour,” said another doctor.

Doctors also advise wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. “Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly,” they say.

According to Dr (Colonel) Vijay Dutta, senior consultant, internal medicine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, due to increasing heat in Delhi and northern India, the effects of heat are bound to happen.

“The heat cramps and heat exhaustion are the mildest forms of the effects of heat where the person develops body aches, a rise in temperature and muscular cramps while the severest form is the heatstroke where a person presents with high temperature, loss of consciousness, even bleeding or disseminated cardiovascular coagulation. It affects all body systems, including central nervous system, cardiovascular system, circulatory system, gastrointestinal system if not treated on time; heatstrokes can be fatal at times,” Dr Dutta said.

He added that one has to protect herself or himself from effects of heat by having adequate hydration with salt and water like lemon water or salted aerated drinks.

Health impacts and deaths from extreme heat are increasing and these effects are expected to grow as global temperatures continue to rise, a recent study published in The Lancet stated.

“When exposed to extreme heat stress, the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature can be overwhelmed, leading to heatstroke. In addition, physiological thermoregulatory responses that are engaged to protect body temperature induce other types of physiological strain and can lead to cardiorespiratory events,” the study explained.

It added that effects from extreme heat are also associated with increased hospitalisations and emergency room visits, increased deaths from cardiorespiratory and other diseases, mental health issues, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, and increased healthcare costs.

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