Hamad Medical Corporation
With temperatures rising in Qatar, it is important to prioritize heat safety and observe precautions to prevent heat-related illness, according to Dr Saad Abdulfattah Al-Nuaimi, Senior Consultant at the Emergency Department of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
“Heat-related illnesses, such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, depend on the duration of exposure and the temperatures exposed to. These illnesses can range from a mild, simple condition which can be treated at home, to a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical care,” Dr Al-Nuaimi explained.
“In Qatar, the hot season started in late May. From June to the beginning of September, we might have between 5-15 cases daily of heat-related illness. Most of the patients treated at the Emergency Department are suffering from heat exhaustion, a stage before heat stroke,” said Dr Al-Nuaimi. “A few of the patients, if neglected at the scene or not treated early enough, will be progressing to heat stroke, in which there will be damage to the central nervous system.”
Dr Al-Nuaimi advises the following precautions in order to prevent heat-related illness:
Increase fluid intake to stay hydrated and replenish water your body loses due to excessive sweating. Avoid drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, as these can cause you to lose more body fluids.
Eat small snacks throughout the day; avoid heavy meals and hot food as these can increase the body temperature. Salty snacks and fruit juices can help replenish the salts and minerals lost through excessive sweating. If you have a chronic illness and are already on a low-salt diet, however, you will need to consult your doctor regarding the amount of salt you can safely consume.
Stay indoors in a cool place as much as possible. Avoid going out between 10am and 3pm as the temperature is usually at its peak during this time. Schedule outdoor activities such as sports in the early morning or evening hours when it is cooler.
If you need to go outdoors, it is best to stay or rest often in shady areas. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, applied about 30 minutes before exposure to the sun.
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Buddy system (or having someone accompany you) is also advised when you have to stay or work in a hot environment. Heat-related illness can sometimes progress so rapidly that you may suddenly become drowsy or unconscious, so it is helpful to have someone around and aware of the situation.
During exercise, drink two to four glasses of water or other cool, non-alcoholic fluids per hour. If you exercise outdoors, start slowly to allow your body to acclimatize to the hot weather. If you start having a fast or strong heartbeat and are feeling tired, stop exercising for that day, rest in the shade and take plenty of fluids.
Never leave infants, children or pets unattended in a parked car, as temperatures can rapidly rise inside the vehicle.
Check frequently on people at greater risk of suffering from heat-related illness, such as elderly people, young children and babies, and those who are obese or who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or other co-morbidities.