As summer begins, many people complain about the heat. Bodies feel icky-sticky with sweat, not to mention how they tan under the blazing sun. Still many in their hearts yearn for the breeze, sunshine, and sand at Thailand’s beautiful ocean’s edge, because however hot it gets, people love to relax in the beautiful waters.
When you hit the beaches with your sunglasses, sunblock, and hats, don’t forget to mind your health and watch after yourself, because one can get sick from the body overheating, a condition known as “heat stroke.” Heat stroke is not just a general overheating of the body, but a condition with specific symptoms where the body can’t properly regulate or control internal temperature levels due to extreme hot weather. If the body can’t continuously release heat, internal temperatures will gradually increase even up to 40 degrees Celsius, causing headaches, flushing, deliriousness, seizures, unconsciousness, rapid breathing, arrhythmic heartbeat, shock, and, if not treated immediately, possible death.
Having observed illness and death due to hot weather in Thailand, the Department of Disease Control through the Bureau of Epidemiology found that in the year 2014, between March 1 and May 31, there were 28 suspected case of death due to heat stroke. Most were male (26 cases, 93%) though some were female (2 cases, 7%). The youngest case was 30 years old, and the oldest, 86. If divided by age group, it was found that most fit between the ages of 55-64 (37%), followed by those between 45-54 (22%). A significant finding was that of those who died presumably from heat stroke, the most common activities at the time of death were working or performing activities outdoors during hot weather (68%). The next most common activities were either driving/riding in a vehicle and sleeping, both which accounted for 11% of cases each, finally followed by drinking alcoholic beverages at 4%.
There are 6 unfortunate groups of people that are more likely to encounter heat stroke:
1) those working or performing activities in the sun,
2) children under five and the elderly,
3) those with high blood pressure,
4) obese persons,
5) those who are sleep deprived, and
6) those drinking alcoholic beverages.
As for how to help those symptomatic of heat stroke: have them lay flat with both feet raised to increase blood flow to the brain; loosen undergarments and remove excess clothing; apply a compress soaked in cold water or ice to the nape of the neck, armpit, groin, or forehead in addition to cooling the body with a fan or cold water in order to lower the body temperature, and then take them to the hospital as soon as possible. In milder cases, make sure they drink plenty of fluids.
During the hot season it’s very easy to prevent heat stroke. Just wear light colored, thin clothing that is breathable such as cotton or linen. Reduce energetic outdoor activities. Wear sunglasses and wide brimmed hats. You should drink more water, increasing the amount from the usual 1-2 liters per day to 1 liter per hour to keep the body at a stable temperature and to compensate for water lost due to sweat. Water helps keep body temperatures at normal levels and enables the body to engage in hot weather. Lastly, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages of any sort.
So this summer, may everyone have fun, prepare themselves physically, and not forget as the weather heats up to not only keep your body cool, but yourself cool-headed as well.
Dr. Sopon Mekthon