It’s been so hot across Nigeria lately, one could probably fry an egg on car bonnets!
What we are currently experiencing is a heatwave, i.e. an extended period of high temperatures and high humidity. In these conditions, your body has to work very hard to maintain a normal temperature and this can get dangerous quickly.
The main risks posed by a heat wave are:
- Dehydration (losing too much water)
- Heat exhaustion or overheating; yes, this happens to human beings too
- Heatstroke usually results from the above and requires emergency treatment
Symptoms can include
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
Who is most at risk?
The heat can affect anyone, but some people run a greater risk of serious harm:
- Older people, especially those over 75
- Babies and young children
- People with heart or breathing problems
- People with mobility problems like those with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke
- People with serious mental health illnesses
- Those on certain medications that affect sweating and temperature control
- People who misuse alcohol or drugs
- People who are physically active e.g. soldiers, labourers or athletes
- Homeless people.
Tips for coping in a heat wave
- It seems counterintuitive but close your windows when it is hot outside
- You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler, at night perhaps
- Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool
- Don’t go out between 11 am and 3 pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re more vulnerable
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or light-coloured curtains (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter)
- Small closed spaces, such as cars can get dangerously hot very quickly so avoid closed spaces
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water
- Drink plenty of fluids like water, low-fat milk, tea and coffee, then avoid excess alcohol
- Limit fruit juice or smoothies to a combined total of 150ml a day, and choose sugar-free drinks
- Avoid high-intensity physical exertion, if you can’t avoid it then do it during a cooler part of the day – for example in the early morning or evening
- Wear loose, cool clothing. Use a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors
- Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
- Look out for children because they are particularly at risk of skin damage from the sun.
- Chronic illnesses can get worse in hot weather so be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illnesses.