The heat is coming

Last year’s summer will not be forgotten easily. As well as Europe recording some of its highest ever temperatures, at times the heat was so severe that it claimed hundreds of lives, especially among the elderly. The summer of 2003 will long be remembered not only for its staggering temperatures, but also for the devastating fires that hit Portugal and the damaging impact this had on the ozone layer. According to the European Environment Agency, the ozone levels have now reached an all time high in central Europe. And, according to the meteorological department, although this summer’s temperatures cannot be predicted with certainty, all indications point to another scorcher.

Get prepared

Even if you are not directly in the sun, be careful as there is still a risk of sunstroke and other heat-related problems. Remember that during a heat wave, the body has to work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Excessive heat can result in serious health threats by pushing the human body beyond its limit. Children, elderly people and those who are sick or overweight are the most at risk. Here are some tips to follow:

• Avoid sunbathing during the hottest hours – between noon and 4pm.

• Drink lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty, and avoid alcohol.

• Protect the most exposed areas, such as your face and shoulders.

• Choose the right type of sun cream for your skin and make sure it is not out of date.

• Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle.

• Plan outdoor activities for early morning or evening.

• During a heat wave, stay indoors as much as possible, with rotating fans and closed shutters.

•Wear loose fitting, lightweight and light-coloured cotton clothing that will cover as much of your body as possible.

• Have light meals rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins, such as fruit and vegetables.

•If your house is too hot, wet your outside walls down with a hose.

• Wet your wrists and temples now and again, for a quick and effective way to cool down.

• Air conditioning can seem great at this time of year, especially among the elderly and children, but avoid dramatic changes of temperature.

When to worry

• Heat cramps: Painful spasms, mostly in legs and abdomen, usually the result of heavy exertion and heavy sweating. What to do: Apply firm pressure to cramping muscles or gentle massage to relieve spasms. Replenish your fluids and contact your doctor.

• Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin. Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. What to do: Lie down in a cool place. Loosen clothing. Apply cool wet cloths. Cool yourself down with a fan.

• Heat stroke: High body temperature (106+). Hot, dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. What to do: seek medical attention immediately. Try a cool bath or sponging to reduce body temperature. But do not have any fluids.

For more information about summer health issues contact your local doctor or call 214 728 200.