Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding the public to take the necessary precautions to safeguard against heat-related illnesses as the summer temperatures continue to rise. While sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur at any time of the year, cases of heat-related illnesses are more common in Qatar during the summer months.

Health officials agree that children and older adults are most susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, poor circulation, and obesity can hinder a person’s ability to cool down, and many of these conditions are more common in older adults. Additionally, certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and depression can diminish an individual’s ability to respond to heat, placing older adults at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses.

HMC Director of Paediatric Emergency Services Dr Khalid Al Ansari recommends that parents and caregivers keep children inside during hot days where they have access to air conditioning, adding that staying in shaded areas is advisable when outside. He noted that like older adults, children are also at increased risk of heat-related illness because they don’t adjust to changes in environmental conditions as quickly as most healthy adults do.

According to Dr Al Ansari, around 25 children in Qatar were treated at HMC last year for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. He said that children exposed to high temperatures such as in parked vehicles and humid weather are at greatest risk of heat stroke.

Parents should not leave children unattended in vehicles parked outside during the day. It is always advisable to take children inside because if a car is parked outside and under the sun for even a short amount of time, for example, 10 minutes, the temperature inside (the car) can rise by 10 degrees.’

Dr Al Ansari explained that signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscles cramps, difficulty breathing and a racing heart rate. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, the best action to take is to get the affected person out of the hot area. Take him or her to an air-conditioned area. Have them lie down, and provide plenty of cool fluids.’

He advised removing heavy clothing and applying cold compresses to the body to bring the temperature down gradually.

Usually within 30 to 45 minutes, the person should feel better. However, if the heat exhaustion continues and symptoms are not attended to promptly, heat exhaustion will progress to heat stroke with the body temperature rising as high as 40 degrees.’

Dr Al Ansari explained that patients experiencing heat stroke may lose consciousness, experience fainting, and seizure activity and can even go into a coma.

If these symptoms continue, blood pressure will drop and the person can die.’

He noted that if any of these symptoms are experienced, immediately dial 999 and seek emergency assistance.

Visit the HMC website for more information the various services available in their facilities.