Uff, this heat, this stifling, oppressive heat…’
As conversations veer around heat and the onslaught of humidity following the onset of the generously delayed summer, this Wknd edition presents to you a quick guide on how to stay fit and healthy during these trying summer months. Dr. Dilip Abdul Khadar, Chief of Medical services at Aster Royal Hospital, Muscat, has all the right answers to question pertaining to summer health and fitness.
In the following interview, Dr. Kadar provides easy tips and safety guides to follow this season.
What are some of the common summer health problems affecting children and adults in this part of the world?
Sunburn: Children, who love to play outdoors, expose their skin to direct sunlight for long duration. The harmful rays of sun can cause sunburn, where the skin becomes red and discoloured. Even adults, when exposed to sunlight, face the risk of sunburn.
Dehydration: Children tend to get so engrossed in their games that they don’t even take a break and drink water, which can lead to dehydration. So, watch out for signs of dehydration in your child. Even adults should stay well hydrated when working outside during summer. Dehydration can manifest with thirst, less-frequent urination, skin dryness, fatigue, light-headedness, dizziness, dry mouth, and mucous membranes. However, everyone may experience symptoms differently.
Heat exhaustion: If a child or adult gets exposed to high temperatures for a long time, they are at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke which may need immediate medical attention. Heat exhaustion comes with many unpleasant symptoms, including increased pulse, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and headache. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a more severe condition that calls for emergency medical attention. Without appropriate care, heatstroke can cause damage to vital organs and muscles. It can even be fatal.
What precautions should one take to avoid or minimize those problems?
Sunburn can be avoided by keeping your sunscreen lotion handy, applying it to exposed skin at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Then, reapply every two hours. Choose a product that says ‘broad spectrum’ coverage with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Limit your time in the sun between 10 am to 4 pm, when its rays are strongest. Wear long-sleeved shirts. If your skin is sensitive, use an umbrella for shade; use hats, caps and sunglasses.
Dehydration can be prevented by taking precautionary measures, which include drinking plenty of fluids, especially when working or playing in the sun. Ensure that you are taking in more fluid than you are losing and schedule physical outdoor activities for the cooler parts of the day.
Prevention of heatstroke is more effective than treatment, and is certainly easier. In warm weather, and especially during heat waves, protective steps should be taken to mitigate the risk of classic heatstroke. These include staying in air-conditioned homes or other air-conditioned premises (e.g., shopping malls or movie theatres), using fans, taking frequent cool showers and decreasing exertion.
Is it advisable to go outdoors when temperatures cross 40°c?
Avoid going out if temperatures are soaring above 40 degrees. If unavoidable, take precautionary measures: if outside, try to stay under shaded area; make the exposure short; use mussar, kummah or caps for men; hijab for women; wear cotton or linen clothes when going outside; and stay hydrated. Make sure the air conditioning in your car works well and cooling is adequate if your job involves driving around during peak summer.
Longer exposure to heat and dehydration can put one at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heatstroke is the most hazardous condition in a spectrum of illnesses progressing from heat exhaustion to heatstroke, in which a shared finding is hyperthermia (i.e., the rise in core body temperature when heat accumulation overrides heat dissipation during exercise or exposure to environmental heat stress). Clinically, heatstroke is characterized by central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction with deterioration in consciousness, multiorgan failure, and extreme hyperthermia, usually with body temperature >40.5°C.
What are the dos and don’ts if one is planning an outdoor trip during the weekends?
If planning a trip outside during weekends, ensure that the exposure is short and limited, be under the shade, use sunscreen with a good SPF, stay hydrated, carry enough water to drink on the way, and wear head gear, cotton or linen clothes. Try not to take infants, small children and elderly or senior citizens along, as they are more vulnerable for heat exhaustion. Make sure the car is parked near and the air-conditioning is serviced, and cooling is adequate.
What foods should one consume during the hot summer months?
As the Mercury starts rising, drinking gazillion litres of water is not making a difference. The best way to keep your body cool this summer is by keeping your diet right. This will reduce internal heat and make you feel more comfortable with the soaring temperatures. While cold drinks and frozen desserts might seem cooling, they are not. Instead, they affect you adversely.
a) Cucumbers instantly hydrate the body and bring down the body heat. You could snack on them as a salad or with a dip.
b) Watermelons and musk melons are juicy and full of nutrients that the body needs. They help you hydrate and boost the body with power-packed nutrients like Vitamin B, magnesium, potassium and fibre.
c) Green leafy vegetables, as smoothies, salads or side dish, are high in nutrient value, calcium and provide a good cooling effect on the body.
d) Curds, yogurt or laban are packed with calcium and are healthy summer alternatives to cold fizzy drinks. They are rich with Vitamin B and gut-friendly bacteria.
e) Fish can boost protein content in your diet without opting for meats. They are rich in good fatty acids and are a tasty alternative. It generates less heat on consumption, which means you will not feel lethargic and uncomfortably full.
Alternately, are there any food items that one must avoid to stay hydrated and healthy?
The rise in mercury leaves us irritated and it often results in lack of appetite. While we feel that it is happening because of heat, to an extent our lifestyle and food habits are responsible for the change. Fried food is not easy to digest, which further leaves you bloated and should be restricted. We all know that meat is not an easy-to-digest food. Excessive consumption of meat in the summer season increases the pressure of the digestive system. It contains high amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, which heat the body up while digesting. It is suggested to avoid spicy food in summer. Caffeinated drinks, including coffee, which is a diuretic, will leave you thirsty as it makes you urinate frequently and should be restricted.
What guidelines should one follow during the regular morning or evening walks?
The early morning and the cooler part of the evening can be great times to go for a walk. It would be wise to avoid walking outside on hottest days. Take a bottle of water with you. Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics, so you don’t overheat; light layers that you can take on and off are particularly useful. If you are walking to make the most of a sunny day, take some water, a sun hat or cap and some sunscreen. Avoid long runs, marathons. Exertional heatstroke can occur even within the first 60 minutes of exertion and may be triggered without exposure to high ambient temperatures in summer.
Could you provide some easy tips to breeze through these summer months?
Keep Yourself Hydrated by drinking plenty of water. During summer, you continuously lose water due to perspiration, and it is essential that you rehydrate the lost fluids to keep your body cool and hydrated. The usage of air conditioning can also cause dryness and dehumidification. Staying hydrated can help to reduce fatigue and keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.
Make Sure Your Air Conditioning is in Top-Notch Condition – You would not prefer your AC to break down in the middle of a hot summer day, so keeping it in top condition is essential for beating the heat.
Eat Light, Healthy Foods – Taking a light diet with high water content is the key to beat the heat during summers.
Wear Light Clothes – Your clothes also play a part in beating the heat when temperatures soar. Opt for loose clothing that allows room for air circulation; choose cotton, linen and other materials that allow the sweat to evaporate easily. Use light coloured clothes as they reflect the heat away from your body.
Keep the Curtains Closed During Daytime -To keep your house cool during the summers, you should close your windows and cover them with blinds/curtains to reduce unnecessary heat gain.
Use Landscaping to Beat the Heat – Planting trees and plants outside your house can also help your home stay cool during the summer.
Shower and swim when possible.Exercising outside in the heat is a big ‘no’ – The temperature and the exercise itself raise your core body temperature, which increases the chances of heat cramps or heat stroke.
Dr. Dilip Abdul Khadar
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