Of solstices, indices, and (heat) strokes

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If you have not done it yet or if you have not noticed it already, there is a high possibility that some of your friends have already edited their Facebook avatars with a free electric fan background or some of them had ranted about the heat.

A trip to the beach would be perfect or at least an air conditioned mall, but its pandemic season and these summer areas carry risks for contagion so we ought to stay at home and flex our fanning muscles all day.

PAGASA stated that heat indices ranging between 41 oC and 54 ºC are considered “dangerous” as such temperatures may result in heat cramps and heat exhaustion, even heatstroke. Sangley Point in Cavite City registered 51ºC last Saturday, 9 May, 2020 at 2 pm. Other areas registered temperatures between these ranges as well.

There’s definitely a valid reason to complain about the heat, because the effects of extremely high temperatures on us could be downright dangerous.

Recently, singer-actor and former Marikina councilor Sonny Parsons of Hagibis died of a heart attack, suspected to be triggered by heat stroke last Sunday, 10 May. A tragedy, yes, but also a learning point that complaining about the heat is not just meme-worthy but a serious health concern.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire urged that the public should be on alert for signs of heat stroke.

Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy young athletes. For instance, in the 2014 NBA Finals Game 1, Lebron James was forced to exit because of severe leg cramping caused by extremely warm temperatures after the air conditioning in the arena malfunctioned. Heatstroke may rise from mild forms of heat injury, like what Lebron experienced (Heat cramps). Heat syncope may follow and it is when one experiences fainting. But note that Heatstroke can occur without prior signs of these milder heat injuries.

Prolonged exposure to high temperature usually in combination with dehydration is the primary cause of heatstroke. In medicine, heatstroke is considered when body temperatures reach and exceed 40 oC, coupled with neurologic / behavioral signs such as nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation and sometimes loss of consciousness and coma.

Other symptoms include

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

First Aid for Heat Stroke

  • Call an ambulance, and rush to the nearest healthcare center. The milder forms of hyperthermia (Heat cramps / Heat exhaustion) may be managed easily but heat stroke is a true medical emergency that is often fatal if not properly and promptly treated.
  • While waiting, move the person in an air-conditioned area or at least a cool shade
  • Remove unnecessary clothing
  • Cool the person by fanning, wetting his or her skin, applying ice packs in blood vessel rich areas (neck, groin, armpits, back)
  • Slowly immerse patient in cool water

IMPORTANT: Ice and Ice Baths may be used for Athletes who experienced Exertion Heatstroke / Heat cramps but never for very old or very young patients or those with chronic diseases. People at risk of heat stroke include the very young and very old, people with chronic diseases, people who don’t drink enough water, and people who drink alcohol and take drugs.

Heat Stroke Prevention

  • Wear Light weight, light colored, loose clothes.
  • May use sunscreen with SPF 30
  • Drink extra fluids, I couldn’t stress this enough. Salt depletion may be associated with heat stroke so electrolyte rich drinks may also be good. (If you work outdoors always make sure you have access to drinking water)
  • Monitoring the color of your urine. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration. Be sure to drink enough fluids to maintain very light-colored urine.
  • Take extra precaution when drinking coffee or alcohol as they make you lose more fluids. Supplement it by drinking more water (or just don’t drink coffee and alcohol in this heat)
  • Staying in parked cars under the heat is a common cause of heatstroke

Besides being literally an essential for life, drinking water is an essential prevention and first aid for heat strokes, but it must be noted that there’s also a danger of excessive water consumption due to panic and confusion. And due to behavioral symptoms of confusion, seizure, disorientation and the like, drinking water might be a health hazard that is why it is imperative to be in a medical facility to provide hydration via an IV line.

Heat Stroke in Pets

Under the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 or Republic Act No. 8485, neglecting to provide (or depriving) animals adequate care, sustenance, or shelters may be punished by imprisonment, a fine, or both depending on the discretion of the court. An animal’s welfare is almost entirely dependent on their owners, and in days of extreme heat it is crucial that pet owners be more vigilant as dogs and cats are susceptible to heatstroke. Dogs and cats merely dispel heat by panting, but unfortunately at times this is not enough.

Signs of Heatstroke in Pets include heavy panting, excessive drooling, bright red or purple gums and tongue, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy, unsteadiness, seizures, and unconsciousness. If this happens, first aid must be done, but it must be noted that if one has the ability to rush to the vet then by all means first aid should be done on the way and not a cause to delay the vet trip. Move the pet in a cool, dry place, cover it with a cool dry towel, and offer a small amount of cool water. It should be noted that abrupt cooling is dangerous so this must be done slowly and you must not force a pet to drink water if it cannot. Abrupt cooling would not help with heat stroke as blood vessels tend to constrict at very low temperatures, slowing down blood flow and making your pets recover slower.

Once a pet recovers note that a vet trip is still crucial as damage to internal organs may have happened. Pets who experienced heatstroke are more likely to experience that again.

To prevent Pet’s Heatstroke, precautions must be done:

  • Fresh Cool Water round the clock
  • Keeping Pets indoors and shaded
  • Keeping pets from walking on hot asphalt
  • And More importantly Never leaving them inside Cars (even with Windows open)

Stay hydrated, stay safe and stay informed.

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