Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

Summer has always been really hot in Pakistan, particularly in the plains and low-lying areas. This year, however, the high temperatures have come much earlier as compared to the previous years. And this is just the start of summer.

According to a recent news report, “UK Met Office researchers say that there’s now around a fifty-fifty chance that the world will warm by more than 1.5C over the next five years. The study suggests that temperatures between 2022 and 2026 will be between 1.1C and 1.7C higher than pre-industrial levels.”

We will now be seeing very high temperatures as a matter of routine in summer, rather than a one-off occurrence. This situation is a cause for concern for all of us, particularly for children. Most children go to school, then they play outdoor games in the late afternoon. This routine is followed by a vast majority of youngsters and do not have sufficient knowledge about heatstroke, its preventive measures and associated morbidities. As a result, they are more prone to being affected by hot weather.

Since the school year is close to its completion and most children are busy giving their final exams, they cannot afford to become ill at this critical phase. Some of the measures that can be helpful in preventing such an occurrence, as a consequence of the hot weather, are as follows:

Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun:

At times, exposure to the sun is unavoidable, such as while going to school. However, at other times, it can be easily avoided, or at least be minimised. For instance, instead of playing in the late afternoon, when the sunlight is still sufficient to cause a sunburn, outdoor games can be played just before sunset or after the sunset takes place. Even better would be to avoid playing outdoor games completely, at least for as long as the final exams last. Once the school holidays start, outdoor games and activities can be scheduled for the evenings, when the weather is bearable and pleasant.

Secondly, going to the market or the neighbourhood shops is something that all of us do without giving it much thought, be it to buy an edible or a stationery item. Instead of doing so in the daytime, one can go to the market in the evening to avoid daytime exposure to the sun. Besides there are outdoor chores that are done by many youngsters, so if it’s very necessary, then better do two to three chores in a single visit outside the house and leave the rest for the evening. This way, you can avoid extra exposure to the sun and not get too drained.

Drink plenty of water:

In the prevailing weather condition, keeping oneself properly hydrated is the need of the hour. Dehydration is very common in the younger age group, and it is a very dangerous condition, medically. Always keep a water bottle with you when you go out. There are water coolers installed at various places, including schools, so make full use of them.

One unfortunate aspect that comes to notice frequently is that many people do not drink water to avoid going to the washroom, particularly during school time, which leads to dehydration. This perspective needs to be changed. There is neither any harm in asking permission from the teacher to go to the washroom, nor in actually going to the washroom. Concisely, drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated and do go to the washroom if you feel the urge.

Apart from that, I have noticed that many kids these days are using fancy water bottles, and most of these fills up 1.5 or two glasses of water at the most. This is not enough, drinking just a glass or two of water in six or more hours is absolutely inadequate! Plus, there is physical activity at school which leads to further dehydration.

It is better to choose bigger bottles that have a vacuum flask inside, so that the water remains cool for a long time. Yes, these bottles have a typical look and do not look fancy or trendy. But if you want to remain healthy, do not get carried away by trends.

Follow proper preventive measures:

Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

When the exposure to the sun becomes necessary, it should not be without any preventive measures. Always use a P-cap or a hat when going out during the day; using an umbrella would be even better. Remember, umbrellas are not only meant to be used during a rain or thunderstorm, they are very useful in the sweltering summers as well! If one has to remain under the sunlight for a long time, use of sunblock cream can be beneficial since it protects the skin from sunburn.

Secondly, instead of remaining under the sun for long hours, try to find a shade, which can be under a tree, in the shadow of a building or anything similar to it. Such areas of shade are available almost everywhere.

One mistake that many of us commit is that, after remaining under the sun for some time, we rush towards an air-conditioned room and get seated directly in front of the AC. This should be avoided, along with avoiding stepping out in the sun directly from an air-conditioned room. There should be a transitional period in which the body gets time to adjust to a change of the surrounding. This transitional period can be sitting under the fan for some time.

Similarly, one should not go to take a cold water bath while sweating profusely due to exposure to the heat. Waiting for at least half an hour to cool down one’s body before going under the shower is essential. The foregoing activities are very common in the sweltering summers as a means to get immediate relief; these should be avoided as much as possible.

Remedy in case of a heat stroke:

Despite having the knowledge of preventive measures, many people, due to various reasons, end up getting a heat stroke, the symptoms of which include profuse sweating, raised body temperature, headache, confusion, altered mental state and fainting in the more severe cases. In case of a heat stroke, the foremost step is to take the affected person away from the sunlight and into an unheated environment.

Secondly, immediately cooling the person by rubbing and putting on him a wet cloth is essential. Thirdly, administer plenty of water to the affected person. Oral rehydration therapy, such as ORS, can be useful in replacing the electrolytes lost in the sweat. In case the symptoms are severe, immediately consult a doctor.

To sum everything up, exposure to the on-going hot weather conditions needs to be avoided as much as possible. Moreover, following the preventive measures against a heatstroke is the duty of every individual. Remember, heatstroke is a dangerous condition, and can have an ever-lasting impact on the mental health of an affected individual. Hence, it should not be taken lightly.

Act smartly and remain safe from the sun!

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 21st, 2022

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