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Here's how to prevent—and deal with—heat stroke

By NICK GARCIA Published Mar 27, 2023 8:29 pm Updated Mar 31, 2023 11:56 am

The heat has been punishing more than ever as the dry season (or summer as informally called) is already here.

The Philippine Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAGASA said the season is expected to last until May, which means that Filipinos would have to deal with higher temperatures in the coming days, putting them at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

If left untreated, it can damage the internal organs, cause complications and, worse, lead to death.

"Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness when the body overheats and cannot cool down. The body cannot take off the excessive heat by sweating because of dehydration and/or humid environment," said the DOH.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, children and the elderly are at highest risk. People who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, are also at risk, as with those who have heart disease or high blood pressure, poor circulation, and are overweight. If you're over-exercising or working, it would also put you at risk.

Despite precautionary measures in place, one cannot be so sure when heat stroke happens, which is why the Department of Health (DOH) has reminded the public about signs of heat related-ilnesses.

If you or someone you know is experiencing faintness, dizziness, weakness, and headache, it might be heat exhaustion and may lead to heat stroke. Additionally, if their skin is turning warm and flushed, it may be a sign, too.

Their body temperature can climb “to 106°F (41°C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes,” the CDC said. Aside from that, they may also experience a rapid heartbeat, convulsion, delirium, and unconsciousness.

What to do when someone is having a heat stroke

When the worst case scenario comes, the DOH said to first move the person to a shady spot or indoors. They also said to have them lie down with their legs elevated and have them take a sip cool water if they're conscious.

Remove clothing, apply cool water to the skin, and fan them. Spraying the person with a garden hose or blanketing them with wet cloth are good ways to apply cool water to the skin, Dr. Sonny Abrahan, an interventional cardiologist, noted.

soaking their body in cool/iced water, spraying them with a garden hose, placing ice packs or cool wet towels on their head, neck, armpits and/or groin area, and to blanket them with a cool wet cloth/sheet.

Apply ice packs to the armpits, wrists, ankles and groin to help cool down the body temperature.

After applying emergency measures, the person who's suffering from heat stroke must be brought to the hospital as soon as possible.

But the moment the patient is unconscious with no pulse or breathing before medical assistance arrives, Abrahan said one must do cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR immediately.

How to prevent heat stroke
  1. Don't go out between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Department of Health (DOH) has strongly advised the public to not go out during these hours, as heat would be unbearable. As much as possible, they said to schedule heavy-duty activities for the beginning or end of the day when it's already cooler.
  2. Take breaks between bursts of activity. Abrahan said one must not push themself to the limits especially during open-area sports or exercise. He also advised avoiding intense physical activities during peaks of highest temperatures.
  3. Wear hats, use umbrellas, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. If it can't be helped, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire urged the public to wear hats and use umbrellas as protection from the sun. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention also suggests wearing lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. One may also opt for long-sleeved clothing when going outside.
  4. Use sunscreen. Aside from umbrella or hat, Vergeire said another layer of defense one may have is sunscreen. It comes in the form of lotion, spray, gel, or other topical products. The CDC said look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels, as they work best. They must be applied 30 minutes before going outside, and must be applied according to package directions.
  5. Drink plenty of water. One of the best ways to beat the heat is by staying hydrated. In fact, a 20-year-old student from the University of the Cumberlands passed away from heat stroke after an intense outdoor workout. He begged for water but was refused by his coaches. Dr. Benito Atienza of the Philippine Federation of Professional Associations in a Laging Handa public briefing said it's best to drink at least two liters of water a day, as well eat watery fruits like watermelon.
  6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, hot meals. The DOH said one must avoid drinking caffeine products like soda, coffee, tea, or energy drink. Dr. Tony Leachon, former special adviser of the National Task Force vs. COVID-19, told TeleRadyo that caffeine products are diuretic, meaning they make one urinate more often and therefore advance dehydration. Alcoholic beverages also trigger urination and must be avoided, the DOH added. One must also do away with hot meals like lugaw or those with soup. Atienza also advised against eating sweets as they bring out water in the body.
  7. Stay cool indoors, take a cold shower. One must try to keep their body temperatures from rising by staying in cool areas. Ideally, an air conditioner easily achieves this. But if one doesn't have an AC unit at home, one may try spending time in a mall or library even just for a while, the CDC suggests. Electric fans may be of help, though still don't prevent heat-related illness. One of the best ways to cool off is through a cold shower.
  8. Take a dip, but ensure clean waters. Another way to deal with the season—and in a fun way at that—is through swimming. Vergeire, however, reminded the public to ensure the waters are clean and free of bacteria, as they can cause ear or eye infections, as well as gastrointestinal diseases.
  9. Don't leave children or pets inside parked cars. The CDC warned that cars can quickly heat up even with the windows open. One must not leave children or inside at all costs, and should double-check if everybody is out of the car.