With temperatures soaring to above 40 degrees in April 2017, incidents of illnesses such as heatstroke, heat cramps and exhaustion are being reported from several parts of India across all age groups. The elderly, infants and children are particularly vulnerable at this time. To handle the side effects of this high temperature and heat wave, and to ensure that the body remains cool, here are a few useful tips from experts at Fortis Healthcare:
Protecting School-going children:
Dr Krishan Chugh, Director and HOD, Pediatrics and PICU, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon
Children are very susceptible to sudden rise in temperature, extreme variations in day/night as well as indoor/outdoor temperatures due to consistent use of air conditioners. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to especially at a time when the schools are in session:
- Avoid staying outdoors for long durations: Children should not be made to stand for long during School Assembly and the Physical Education periods. They should also not be sent for playing in the sun on an empty stomach. Indoor games such as badminton, tennis, basketball can be played instead. Swimming sessions need to be done only in the morning or evening.
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight: Sunscreen lotion should be applied on children, and as far as possible, they must use an umbrella while stepping out to avoid tanning and sunburn.
- Maintain food hygiene: Include fluids such as lemon water but make sure the drink is cool and not ice-cold as it might lead to sudden temperature. One must avoid eating outside snacks from canteen or open kiosks to avoid food poisoning. Food and water-borne diseases are very common in this period. Only bottled/filtered water should be consumed outside home. Children should be made aware of these very important points and encouraged to wash hands regularly.
Tips for the Elderly:
Dr RVS Bhalla, Director & HOD, Department of Internal Medicine, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad
- Hydrate your body: Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day since it doesn't contain any sugar or unnecessary calories. A lemon and honey drink can also instantly replenish your body's lost fluids and work as an energizer. Drinking fluids even when not thirsty is helpful to keep the body one hydrated.
- Eat light, small, frequent meals: Start the morning with a sweet, juicy fruit. Ripe summer fruits such as peaches, plums, melons, pears and citrus fruits are a good choice. Include salads in your diet - consume leafy lettuce, summer greens, corn on cob and cucumbers for salads are delicious ways to stay cool. These contain significant amount of water and can actually thin the blood, which has a cooling effect. Ensure adequate intake of salt: Consuming the right proportion of salt helps maintain the blood pressure. Avoid caffeine, alcohol or excessive tea as they tend to dehydrate.
- Wear loose, full-sleeved, light-coloured cotton clothes: These protect the body from the sun and aid evaporation of sweat. Wearing a hat or sun glasses is also helpful.
- Avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather: If you feel weak or dizzy after exposure to the sun, immediately take water or nimbu paani with salt and retire to a shaded cool place. Lie with your legs elevated for about half an hour to allow your body to recover and prevent fainting attacks.
Caring for Infants
Dr Rahul Nagpal, Director and Head, Department of Pediatrics, Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj
The common health problems observed in babies during summer or seasonal variations are: dehydration, fever, vomiting, sun stroke, prickly heat, dengue, malaria, chikungunya, insect bites, skin allergies and rashes. Precautions to be adhered to while taking care of babies and infants are:
- Keeping the babies hydrated: Infants who are less than six months need to be frequently breast- fed to keep them hydrated. Mothers need to be hydrated as well so that the breastfeeding is adequate.
- Good Hygiene: When bathing your baby, take special care to wash her neck, underarms and other visible folds in her body. Increasing the number of proper baths or sponge baths will keep her clean and cool. You could add a few drops of eucalyptus oil or neemoil to the bath to naturally disinfect her body. If you use massage oil, make sure to wash it off well during bath.
- Going outdoors: When you go out with your baby, keep her away from crowded places, direct sunlight and hot temperatures, especially the hot dry winds.
- Clothing for infants: Keep your baby cool and comfortable in loose-fitting cotton clothing that lets her skin breathe. If there are mosquitoes in your area then keep your baby’s arms and legs covered with clothes made from light, breathable material such as cotton or linen.
- Home and surroundings: Ventilate your home by keeping windows open, unless the hot dry wind (loo) is blowing. Pest control can also protect your home against all kinds of disease-causing insects, like cockroaches, ants and flies. Use good quality disinfectant to clean your home.
- Protecting babies from common illnesses during the summer:
- Prickly heat rash: A baby’s sweat glands are still developing and so they are more prone to a heat rash than adults. To protect your baby, ensure she is not dressed light. You can use talcum powder on your baby as long as you apply it correctly. Dab it onto your hand away from your baby so that there is no chance of her inhaling any powder. Then apply it to the folds of your baby’s skin.
- Dehydration: If you’re breastfeeding, you don’t need to give your baby extra water in the summer to prevent dehydration. Just feed her every time she asks for it.
- Heat stroke: Ensure your baby isn’t overdressed and that she’s getting enough fluids. Keep her away from direct sunlight and hot winds.
- Viral infections: If anyone in the house has viral, ask them to wash their hands with soap regularly and keep your baby away from them. If your baby does get ill, take her to the doctor. According to her weight, the doctor will prescribe the right dose of paracetamol that will help soothe her aches and help bring down her fever.
Coping with rise in temperature
Dr. Ajay Aggarwal, Director – Department of Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Noida says, “The sudden rise in temperature from normal to extremely hot can make a person sick due to exposure to bacteria. Additionally it can weaken the immune system and make one more prone to germs. It is very common to see sudden changes in weather leading to fatigue, stress, skin irritation, loss of appetite and cough.
A healthy and strong person can endure the stress caused by weather changes and not display any sign of discomfort or sickness. For others, it is recommended:
- Take Vitamin C, it can prevent you from contracting simple weather-related illnesses.
- Maintain good hygiene, try to keep the surroundings clean, avoid smoking and eating very spicy food.
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