It ain’t half hot mum!
by Dr John Winsor - The Sunday Times of Malta

Heatwaves can happen so suddenly.

Acclimatising to heat can cause problems not only for patients who are elderly or ill with virus infections and already feverish, but fit people — who can also quickly become exhausted and unwell.

It takes several days to get used to soaring temperatures in the sun and a few of my holiday-going patients have ‘cooked’ themselves in the first few days, rather than staying in the sun for no more than an hour and gradually increasing the exposure as the week progresses.

We lose heat by the evaporation of sweat from skin made warmer by increased amounts of blood in its blood vessels.

Cramp — usually in the calf muscles — is the commonest form of too much environmental heat. It affects workers in hot jobs, such as mining, and fit people undergoing very vigorous exercise. This can be cured by salty drinks, but not beer or lager as alcohol makes dehydration worse.
Heat exhaustion is the holiday goer’s bugbear as it occurs in unacclimatised people who exercise vigorously doing activities such as beach games, jogging, or a strenuous sightseeing trip.

Water depletion causes dizziness, fatigue and fainting. Delirium may follow. The victim needs rest, cooling down with fans and cold sponging, plus lots of salt water — a quarter of a teaspoonful of salt in half a litre of cold water.

Heat stroke is even more serious, as it can kill. Occurring when the body temperature exceeds 41°C, the patient suffers from headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and finally coma.

The skin is hot and dry because the sweating process is halted by inflammation of the sweat glands, known as ‘prickly heat’. Added factors are windless, humid climates, old age and alcohol.

You can treat heat stroke by rapid cooling with cold water or ice packs. Re-hydration by lots of fluid is less likely to have occurred. Also, make sure you seek urgent medical advice for someone in this condition.

The golden rule is to treat the sun with respect. Although it is a great relaxer, rejuvenating force and lifter of ‘the blues’, it can also be very dangerous. Keep cool and drink plenty.