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Respond to early signs of heat stroke.

Summary: With daytime summer temperatures approaching 50 degree Celsius, residents have become extremely susceptible to heat stroke, and hospitals have voiced their concern at the spiralling number of cases.

With daytime summer temperatures approaching 50 degree Celsius, residents have become extremely susceptible to heat stroke, and hospitals have voiced their concern at the spiralling number of cases.

Compounding the problem is the fact that most people are not aware of the early warning symptoms of heat strokes, resulting in delayed diagnosis and complications.

A renowned medical expert, Dr Kadry Barry, Specialist in Internal Medicine from Saudi German Hospital-Dubai, corrected a common misconception: "Most people assume that extreme heat only causes sunburn or skin cancer. But the reality is that if neglected, this condition can cause catastrophic damage to the brain, kidney, liver and muscles. On the down side, the complications can be life-long and life-threatening. But if people learn the symptoms and seek early treatment, they can feel an improvement within an hour."

Heat stroke is medically categorised as a heat-related condition that deteriorates from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke.

Preliminary symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, feverish flushed skin, fatigue, nausea, rapid pulse, blackouts, confusion and dark-coloured urine. Dr Barry added that certain population demographics are more vulnerable than others: "What makes heat stroke even deadlier is that those who are hardest hit are those who already suffer from other conditions like kidney, liver, anorexia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, lung and heart disease. Children under two years and the elderly are also at heightened risk. But even young and healthy athletes or manual labourers are not immune, so we should all be proactive and prevent it."

If the symptoms above are ignored, the body's cells start to break down and heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke.

This is commonly typified by body temperatures above 40 degree Celsius, rapid and weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, slurred speech, hallucinations and a complete stop in sweating (since the body has literally run out of sweat).

Tragically, if the patient is not rushed to hospital, he/she may lapse into unconsciousness or even a coma. At the hospital, tests will be conducted, ranging from blood test, urine test, ECG, MRI, CT scan and chest X-ray. These also eliminate other conditions whose symptoms mimic heat stroke, like malaria, blood poisoning and certain cancers. According to the doctor, the public should learn simple first aid for heat stroke: "While waiting for emergency attention, it is vital to put the victim in a cool location -- ideally an air-conditioned room and not shade -- as Dubai temperatures commonly exceed 40 degree Celsius in the shade. Loosen the clothes to facilitate breathing, rehydrating them with water and immerse the body in an ice bath -- unless the victim has pre-existing heart problems.

A massage of the skin can also promote circulation.

However, nothing should be forced into the victim's mouth. For cases that are unconscious, and/or throwing up, you should lay them on their side to prevent choking."

Experts also advise the public to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, and maintain thorough hydration.

Obese individuals should only indulge in exercise gradually, not suddenly. An eye should also be kept on those suffering from epilepsy, memory loss, sweat gland malfunction, diabetes and other vulnerable conditions.

Copyright 2012 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 19, 2012
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