Surviving the Sizzle: Understanding the Impact of Heat waves and Effective Prevention Strategies

India have now been entered into a particular season which have tasty fruits to enjoy and dangerous heat waves to face. Yes, the summers, where the afternoon temperature are too hot to survive.

Heat waves are these period of abnormally high temperature which occurs in the summer season over the North western states of India.

The basic science of these heat waves generation is that they are the results of air trapped in a particular region. Generally, air circles the globe in large prevailing winds. However some of it get trapped in the atmosphere over a particular region. The sunlight cause the air to heat up to an abnormal temperature. The resultant air heat up the surrounding causing uncharacteristic temperature over that region.

Effects of heat wave :
  • Heat wave are the significant cause of heat related deaths in recent years and is grouped among the most dangerous natural hazardous by the WHO.
  • Heat wave not only affect the human body but also the surrounding and tha society. Heat waves can burden health and emergency services, increase strain on water, energy and transportation resulting in power shortage or even blackouts. Food and livelihood security may also be strained if people lose their crops or live stocks due to extreme heat.
  • Very hot days can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or even heat strokes. All can be fatal. Heat strokes is an emergency situation and should be deal rapidly. Hot exhaustion can also be changed to heat stroke. Heat waves are also associated with  higher risk of number of other conditions that are not typically thought to be heat related such as skin infection, pre – term birth, kidney problems and many other conditions.
Prevention and care from Heat wave:

To minimize the impact during the heat waves, the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India have issued certain measures which one can take.

The are:-

  • Avoid going out in sun, especially during 12 noon to 3 pm.
  • Drink sufficient water as often as possible. Carry water with you always.
  • Wear light weight, light coloured, loose and porous cotton clothes.
  • Use protective goggles, umbrella, hat while going out.
  • Avoid strenuous activities when outside temperature is very high.
  • Avoid stale food.
  • Use ORS, homemade drinks like lassi, lemon water, butter milk to rehydrate the body.
  • Use curtains, shutters or sunshade to keep your house cool.
  • Lay the person in cool place under the shade
  • Wipe his body with wet clothes
  • Pour normal water on his head
  • Give ORS.
  • Take him to the nearest health center immediately.

Also Read : Harmful effects of sunlight and UV on skin

Response of WHO on Heat Wave :

The magnitude of human costs from heatwaves can be reduced if adequate emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery measures are implemented in a sustainable and timely manner.

WHO works with the health sector to strengthen governance, preparedness and response to heatwaves, by developing contingency plans that map the risks, vulnerable populations, available capacities and resources. These plans also include early warning systems and ensure vulnerable populations, such as those in health facilities, nursing homes and schools have adequate provision of cooling equipment.

As the health cluster lead for global emergencies, WHO works with partners to respond to: 

  • ensure appropriate food supplementation;
  • restore primary care services, like immunization, child and maternal health, and mental health;
  • assemble mobile health teams and outreach;
  • conduct epidemic surveillance, early warning and response;
  • call for emergency funding to support health action.

Impact :

The health impact of a heatwave depends on the intensity and duration of the temperature, the acclimatization and adaptation of the population, and the infrastructure and preparedness. 

Exposure to heat causes severe symptoms, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke – a condition which causes faintness, as well as dry, warm skin, due to the inability of the body to control high temperatures. Other symptoms include swelling in the lower limbs, heat rash on the neck, cramps, headache, irritability, lethargy and weakness. Heat can cause severe dehydration, acute cerebrovascular accidents and contribute to thrombogenesis (blood clots). 

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