We are buckling under the pressure of a massive heat wave passing across the Middle East, with temperatures feeling like more than 70˚C in some countries. IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT THIS PHENOMENON • Weather experts call it a heat “dome”, a type of high pressure ridge that passes over a region and causes super-sweltering temperatures. • Temperature soared to 74˚C in the city of Bandar Mahshahr, south-west Iran. • Authorities in Iraq declared mandatory four-day holiday with heat index recording 52˚C • Heat index in Lebanon recorded 45˚C in inland Bekaa area and hovered between 38˚C and 40˚C on the coast. WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE THE BODY DURING A HEAT EPISODE? During a heat episode, body heat increases owing to the environment and metabolism. This heat load must be dissipated to maintain a body temperature of 37˚C, a process called thermoregulation. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE BODY FAILS TO MAINTAIN NORMAL TEMPERATURE? • Development of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps; severe dehydration; and acute cerebrovascular accidents; • Contribution to thrombogenesis; • Aggravation of chronic pulmonary conditions, cardiac conditions, kidney disorders and psychiatric illness; WHO IS AT RISK? Anybody is at risk but particularly: 1. Infants and children up to 4 years 2. People aged 65 years and above 3. People who are overweight 4. People confined to bed 5. People who are physically ill 6. People who take medications that aggravate dehydration and heat exhaustion HOW CAN WE PREVENT THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF HEAT WAVES? 1. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait to drink until you are thirsty. 2. Replace salt and minerals. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals lost in sweat. 3. Wear appropriate clothing. Light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing. 4. Schedule outdoor activities carefully. Limit your activity to morning and evening hours. Try to stay cool indoors. 5. Pace yourself. Start an activity slowly and gradually increase the pace. 6. Adjust to the environment. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat.
REFERENCES World Health Organization/Europe: http://www.preventionweb.net/files/2020_VL206717.pdf