With the levels of humidity continuing to rise across the country, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding residents to take precautions and protect themselves against related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is a condition where symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse as a result of the body overheating. It is one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heat stroke being the most severe.
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity and strenuous physical activity. Heat exhaustion is preventable but without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.
For the last week, the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital (HGH) has been receiving patients with heat exhaustion on a daily basis:
HMC’s Chief Consultant of Emergency Medicine, Dr Warda Al Saad said:
We are again asking people, especially outdoor workers, to continue to take care and protect themselves against heat illnesses due to the rise in humidity.’
According to her, the total number of heat-related illnesses recorded at the Emergency Department in June and July were 98 and 190 cases respectively.
She explained that people who work outside are highly susceptible to heat exhaustion:
To avoid heat illnesses, outdoor workers should increase their water and fluid consumption even before they get thirsty. But they should avoid drinking caffeinated drinks as this will help prevent dehydration. It is important to ensure people rest between 10 am and 3 pm, which is the hottest period of the day, because that is when we see more cases at the Emergency Department.’
According to Dr Al Saad, the majority of patients seen at the Emergency Department are young men and outdoor workers, including those with underlying illnesses which aggravated their conditions:
A few of these patients were required to stay for a short period because they have other health conditions aside from heat exhaustion. Otherwise, a good number are mild cases.’
‘Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of working under high humidity or whilst exercising. Possible heat exhaustion symptoms include: cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat; heavy sweating; faintness; dizziness; fatigue; weak, rapid pulse; low blood pressure upon standing; muscle cramps; nausea; and headache.’
Dr Al Saad mentioned that every patient suffering from heat exhaustion was given prompt treatment including administering intravenous fluids and electrolytes to quickly rehydrate them.
Colleagues should also watch for signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion in workers and if they discover someone is in distress, they should take action by giving them cold drinks and taking them to a shaded and cool area.’
We are fully prepared for any sudden rise in cases of heat-related illnesses at the Emergency Department, but I must reiterate that cases in general are not on the rise this summer as compared to last year. It shows that most construction companies are complying with the government standard and guidelines for outdoor workers.’
HMC will like to further urge anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of heat illnesses to seek urgent professional advice or dial 999 for the Ambulance Service.