It’s time to start preparing ourselves for health concerns while we enjoy the hot season in Hanoi.
Our bodies create a tremendous amount of heat. Normally, it is cooled through sweating and by heat radiating through the skin. But in very hot weather, high humidity, and other conditions, this natural cooling system may begin to fail, letting heat in the body build to dangerous levels. This can lead to heat illness, such as heat rash, cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.
Rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases.
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Symptoms can include increased thirst, weakness, fainting, muscle cramps, nausea and/or vomiting, irritability, headache, increased sweating, cool, clammy skin and elevation of body temperature, but less than 40°C. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke, which can be fatal.
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 41°C or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include an extremely high body temperature (above 40°C), red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.
An Ounce of Prevention
Prevention is the best way to manage heat-related illness. Some tips to prevent heat stress include:
- Keep up your fluids – you need to drink more during hot weather, regardless of how active you are. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Drink plenty of water or other cool, non-alcoholic fluids. Avoid alcohol or drinks that contain lots of sugar. Don’t have extremely cold liquids, as they may cause stomach cramps.
- Limit physical activity – too much physical activity on a hot day can lead to heat stress. If you can, restrict activity to cooler times of the day.
- Protect yourself outside – if you must be outdoors, remember to protect yourself from the sun –‘slip, slop, slap’ by covering exposed skin with lightweight clothes, using sunscreen and wearing a hat, ‘seek’ shade and ‘slide’ on sunglasses.
- Don’t leave children or pets in cars – even on cool days, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Children or pets that are left unattended in parked cars for even a few minutes are at risk of serious heat-related illnesses and possibly death. Never leave children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are left open a fraction.
- Take it easy – rest often and, whenever possible, stay indoors or in the shade. Teach kids to come indoors, rest, and hydrate immediately whenever they feel overheated
- Stay cool – and keep air circulating around you. Use air conditioning if possible. (If you don’t have air conditioning, consider visiting an air-conditioned shopping centre or public library.) Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
- Keep up your energy levels – eat regular, light meals.
For more information on Heat related illness
UNIS Hanoi School Health Centre