Malaysia is now experiencing hot weather that is expected to occur at this time of the year. However, as temperatures are expected to be higher than usual, staff are advised on the following precautionary health measures.
HEAT RELATED ILLNESS
Prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke. People could suffer heat-related illnesses when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating. However, under some conditions, sweating may not adequately cool off the body. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises drastically. Very high body temperatures may cause damage the brain or other vital organs.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, with the following being most at risk:
- Infants and children up to four years of age,
- Those 65 years of age and above,
- Those who are overweight, and
- Those who are ill or on certain medications
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT RELATED ILLNESS
- Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion occurs when there is a reduction of the blood volume, caused by excessive sweating in a hot environment. Warning signs may include paleness and sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps (usually in the abdomen, arms or legs), headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness or fainting. This is a serious condition that can develop into heat stroke.
- Heat stroke – Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 40.5C and the body internal systems start to shut down. The person may stagger, appear confused, have a fit or collapse and become unconscious. This is a medical emergency and requires urgent attention.
- Sunburn – The skin becomes red, painful and abnormally warm after sun exposure. To treat the sunburn, avoid repeated sun exposure, apply moisturising lotion to affected areas and do not break the blisters.
- Heat rash – Excessive sweating can cause skin irritation. It can occur at any age, but is most common in young children. It looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is most likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in the elbow creases.
- Heat cramps – These include muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs. They may occur after strenuous activity in a hot environment, when there is a depletion of salt and water in the body.
- Dizziness and fainting – Heat-related dizziness and fainting can be triggered from reduced blood flow to the brain. One may experience light-headedness before fainting occurs.
The following precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of health effects due to hot weather:
- Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Go for Kangen Water =p
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
- Take frequent cold showers or bath, stay indoors or move to an air-conditioned place.
- Where applicable, wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.
- NEVER leave anyone unattended inside a closed and parked vehicle.
- Preferably limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. For those who perform outdoor activity, ensure adequate hydration and appropriate rest breaks.
- Cut down on outdoor exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Isotonic drinks can help to replace the salt and minerals that you sweat out.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen.
Resource: Group HSE