Beware! Heat stroke hits Mumbai

Doctors say hundreds of patients come every day complaining of headache, dizzyness

While meteorology experts have warned that 2007 may be the warmest year of the last century, Mumbai has another problem on hand. According to statistics available with the health department of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai has witnessed six cases of heat stroke in last three weeks. But doctors from private hospitals put the figure in hundreds.

“Each day, we receive around 10 to 12 patients complaining of symptoms associated with heat stroke,” said Ashish Tiwari, a physician at Bombay Hospital.

A Chief Medical Officer (CMO) from a civic hospital in the suburbs echoed this. He said about 15 patients turn up every evening complaining of high fever and headaches.

“The civic hospitals don’t register an increase in heat stroke patients as we simply put in the patients’ papers that he is suffering from high fever,” added the CMO. Medical experts say patients complaining of heat stroke symptoms like fever, dryness, headache and increased heartbeats have shot up and could increase further.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a physically-related illness caused by prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, restricted fluid intake or failure of temperature regulation mechanisms of the body. It includes heat cramps and heat exhaustion. If proper precautions are not taken, it could prove fatal.

Humidity makes it worse

Says Dr K Abhijeet from J J Hospital, “Under normal conditions, the human body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body.

However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Elderly people, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to become victims of extreme heat. Because men sweat more than women, they are more susceptible to heat illness because they become more quickly dehydrated.” Dr Tiwari adds that Mumbai’s humidity adds to the problem.

Symptoms of heat stroke

Muscle cramping and thirst are general symptoms of heat stroke. However, it requires a physician to review the medical history of the patient and obtain blood pressure and temperature reading.

A test to measure the body’s electrolytes can also give valuable information about chemical imbalances caused by heat-related illness.

Water can save you

Dr Sunita Kshirsagar, a physician at KEM hospital, suggests water as the chief cure.

“Drinking one glass of water per hour protects from dehydration. A person affected by heat stroke should be sponged with cold water and given water with glucose to prevent dehydration.”

The second leading cause of death in athletes, after head injuries, is heat stroke. It is dangerous to withhold water from athletes during practice and games.

How to protect yourself 

* Drink plenty of fluids during outdoor activities. Avoid tea, coffee, soda and alcohol as these dehydrate

* Wear lightweight, soft color and loose fitting clothes

* Protect your head and eyes from the sun

* Stay well hydrated even if you are not thirsty. 

* Curtail heavy exercising when it is hot

* When you feel hot, find a cooler location immediately

* Take frequent breaks when you are working in hot conditions

Symptoms of dehydration

Thirst
Less-frequent urination
Dry skin
Fatigue
Confusion
Dry mouth
Increased heart rate and breathing

Symptoms of heat stroke

Headache
Dizziness
Agitation or confusion
Fatigue
Hot, dry skin
Unconsciousness
Rapid heart beat

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