How to protect yourself from extreme heat
There are many natural calamities that claim lives, heat is one of them. Deaths from heat rose to an astounding high last year and we stand facing extreme temperature again this year. With warning from The Indian Meteorological Department stating that 'the worst is yet to come', we have to be prepared to face the heat.

Dr Viveka Kumar, Director - Cath Lab, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket says, "There has been an increase in the number of heat stroke cases during summer. We see more and more patients coming to us with abnormal blood pressure, heart failure and sometimes with abnormal electrolytes leading to abnormal heart beats."

According to Dr Manish Tiwari, DM Gastroenterologist, "There is a physiological mechanism in our body which maintains our internal temperature despite changes in environmental temperature. This process is necessary for proper functioning of our internal organs. But if external temperature increases beyond a certain limit, body's ability to regulate internal temperature becomes exhausted and leads to elevation in internal body temperature. This impairs the functioning of our internal organs and may cause serious damage."

Why is heat wave a problem?

Scorching sun and heat waves can cause number of illnesses. From mild heat cramps to serious heat-strokes, it cannot be taken lightly.

Stress due to heat: This doesn't define any age or health condition. Heat wave can develop stress and can disturb one's mental and physical health. Our body can easily cope up with a temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius but rise in temperature leads to sweat and increases blood circulation to the skin's surface. This process gives a cooling effect. But when our body fails to combat heat exposure, it develops heat-related symptoms. Relax and try to go under normal weather conditions, like under a shade if you are outdoors.

Heat syncope: Heat syncope or fainting is another symptom of being affected by heat wave. This is the result of exertion in hot climate condition. In this condition, body tries to cool itself but exertion causes the blood vessels to dilate to such an extent that blood flow to the brain is reduced.

Body cramps: One may also feel painful cramps in the leg or abdomen muscles. If you have indulged in an activity and feel cramps, immediately stop your movement and consume salted drinks. This helps in replenishing fluid volume.

Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is the consequence of extreme reduction of blood plasma. A person affected with heat exhaustion may feel weakness, nausea, hypotension, headache, rapid heartbeats, and vomiting. If you encounter a person who is affected with heat exhaustion, loosen his/ her clothes or rub his skin with cool water. Heat exhaustion, if left untreated could lead to heat stroke, which is the most serious form of heat-related illness.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe medical condition. Heat stroke can result when the body's temperature goes up to 40. Heat stroke shows signs as headache, dizziness, and weakness, which can be followed by confusion or euphoria and a sudden loss of consciousness. A person suffering from heat stroke may have hallucinations, and unconscious patients may even suffer seizures. An individual suffering from heat stroke should receive medical attention immediately.

Dr Tiwari shares that those who work in outdoor settings are directly affected by extreme temperature particularly during peak hours (11am-5pm). It also affects people who do not take measures to keep their body cool during summer. Also, when someone parks his car outside, the inside temperature of the car spikes and when the person gets back in the car, it can prove harmful.

Heart and Heat

According to Dr Kumar, when the weather is hot your body sweats to cool down, but this means that you lose more fluid than usual from your body. This can drop your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster. Dehydration increases blood viscosity and increases the chances of clogging of the circulatory system. Hot, humid weather can be especially hard for people with a history of heart ailment. The combination of increased blood flow to the skin and dehydration may drop blood pressure enough to cause dizziness or falls. If you have coronary heart disease, you may start to experience angina or your angina worsens during hot weather, because hot weather increases the workload on your heart and the demand for oxygen, especially when you are more active. Most healthy people tolerate these changes without missing a beat. Elderly people especially those with damaged or weakened hearts are more prone to get into trouble because of hot summers. Also, young children have more difficulty in regulating their temperature and so can be more at risk from extreme temperatures. 
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