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May 20, 2024

Surviving Delhi’s Heatwave: Health Risks and Essential Precautions

As Delhi and much of North India grapple with an intense heatwave, temperatures are expected to soar to a scorching 45-47 degrees Celsius in parts of the national capital. Such extreme heat can wreak havoc on the body, leading to heatstroke, dehydration, and other severe health issues. Protecting yourself from heat exposure becomes crucial to avoid long-term damage to vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.

Health Risks of Extreme Heat

Heatstroke and Hyperthermia At temperatures around 45 degrees Celsius, the body’s natural ability to regulate temperature can falter, leading to heatstroke. Symptoms include fever, confusion, dizziness, or seizures. Prolonged exposure can escalate to hyperthermia, dangerously raising body temperature and potentially causing irreversible damage to the brain, kidneys, heart, and muscles. Without prompt treatment, this can be fatal.

Heat Exhaustion A milder but still serious condition, heat exhaustion occurs with prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms include heavy sweating, dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache, and muscle cramps. Immediate cooling and hydration are essential to prevent progression to heatstroke.

Skin Damage Intense heat and strong sunlight can cause severe skin damage, including sunburn. Over time, repeated exposure to UV radiation can increase the risk of skin cancer. Protecting the skin with appropriate clothing and sunscreen is crucial.

Respiratory Problems High temperatures often reduce air quality, leading to increased ground-level ozone and other pollutants. This can irritate the respiratory system and exacerbate conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Heat also promotes the spread of allergens and particulate matter, further compromising respiratory health.

Cardiovascular Stress The body’s efforts to cool itself in extreme heat put additional strain on the cardiovascular system. Blood vessels dilate to dissipate heat, making the heart pump harder. This increased workload can worsen pre-existing heart conditions and elevate the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Precautions to Take During a Heatwave

Stay Hydrated Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is essential, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water, fruits, buttermilk, vegetables, lemon water (nimbu paani), and coconut water are excellent choices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you.

Stay Cool Spend as much time as possible in air-conditioned environments during peak heat hours. Use fans, take cool showers, and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing to help your body stay cool.

Avoid Strenuous Activities Limit outdoor activities, especially during the hottest parts of the day. If you must be outside, take frequent breaks in the shade and drink water regularly to stay hydrated.

Monitor Vulnerable Individuals Keep a close watch on children, elderly family members, and those with chronic health conditions, as they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Ensure they are staying hydrated and cool.

Additional Tips

  • Use Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Eat Light: Consume light, easily digestible meals. Heavy meals can increase your body’s internal heat.
  • Plan Ahead: Check weather forecasts and plan your activities accordingly to avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day.

As Delhi endures this extreme heatwave, taking proactive steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of high temperatures is essential. By staying hydrated, avoiding strenuous activities, and keeping cool, you can mitigate the risks of heat-related illnesses and enjoy a safer, healthier summer.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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