Days have been getting hotter and more humid during the dry season in the Philippines, with some days hitting record highs in temperature and heat index. According to recent data posted by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), some areas in the country experienced a dangerous 58°C degree weather last April 2020. This leaves people to be more vulnerable to getting heatstroke and it is important to know what to do during this emergency situation.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke or hyperthermia occurs when you are exposed to extreme temperatures for long periods of time, or if you are doing physically-taxing activities in hot conditions. Those who suffer from heatstroke are unable to naturally cool down their bodies and are at risk of other health complications, and may even lead to death if not addressed straight away. You don’t need to be directly exposed to the sun to get heatstroke. Even those working indoors but are exposed to warm conditions like athletes and factory workers are also at high risk.
Common signs of heatstroke include:
- Body temperature of 38°C and above
- Change in behavior, e.g. irritability, slurred speech, delirium, confusion
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Skin feels hot and dry
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Muscle cramps
There are two kinds of heatstroke—exertional and non-exertional. The major difference between the two is that exertional heat stroke usually occurs in younger people who are both active and are exposed to extreme heat conditions, while non-exertional heatstroke is experienced by the at-risk population (elderly and children) and can be triggered by exposure to extreme heat even if they are not engaged in any physical activity.
Heatstroke is a more serious condition compare with heat exhaustion. Read more about their differences here.
Treatment and emergency guidelines
Heatstroke is considered an emergency situation that needs immediate medical attention. Call an ambulance or bring yourself/the patient to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Take note of the following tips if you experience or if you see someone else experiencing heatstroke:
- Stay in a cool, dry place while waiting for help to arrive
- Remove or loosen clothing to help regulate body temperature
- Administer a cold sponge bath if possible
- Place ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits and groin
How to avoid heatstroke
According to Mayo Clinic, hyperthermia may permanently damage your vital organs and can possibly lead to death. Here are some useful tips to reduce your risk:
- Stay hydrated – Proper hydration helps keep your body temperature and sweat levels within normal range. Johns Hopkins recommends that you should be drinking more fluids than you are losing it to avoid dehydration which can lead to heatstroke.
- Try to stay indoors during the day – Schedule your outdoor activities or errands early in the morning or in the evening. If you are working outdoors, wear proper protective equipment and stay under the sun periodically. Rest and rehydrate every few hours.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing – Choose cotton fabrics with light colors that do not cling to your skin
- Monitor your exercise routine – Excessive exercising can also lead to heatstroke due to possible physical overexertion, so don’t overdo any physical activity your body cannot handle.
- Avoid parking your car in open spaces – the temperature inside your vehicle can rise pretty quickly when exposed to the full heat of the sun. Avoid staying inside parked cars with the engine turned off—do not leave anyone (including your pets) inside even if a window is cracked open.
The climate in the Philippines gets quite hot and humid for long periods during the year, so it is good to make sure your home is well-ventilated for ample air-circulation. Open your windows and use electric fans especially during peak temperatures during the day. If you can, consider investing in an air-conditioner especially if your home is located in an area that lacks air circulation.
Heatstroke is common during the summer months, but survival is possible if given the proper and immediate treatment. Call your nearest hospital or emergency hotline if you suspect you or someone around you has heatstroke.
Your doctor will always be in the best position to give the appropriate medical advice for your condition. For suspected undesirable drug reaction, seek medical attention immediately and report to the FDA at www.fda.gov.ph and UNILAB, Inc. at UNILAB-1 or email@example.com. Always buy your medicine from your trusted drugstores and retailers.
- Heatstroke - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Retrieved 29 May 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-stroke/symptoms-causes/syc-20353581.
- Heat exhaustion and heatstroke. nhs.uk. (2020). Retrieved 29 May 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/.
- Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia) - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. Retrieved 29 May 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/heat-stroke-hyperthermia-a-to-z.
- Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2020). Retrieved 29 May 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html.
- Dehydration and Heat Stroke. (2020). Retrieved 2 June 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/dehydration-and-heat-stroke.
- Heatstroke: First aid. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Retrieved 2 June 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-heatstroke/basics/art-20056655.
- PAGASA. Bagong.pagasa.dost.gov.ph. (2020). Retrieved 8 June 2020, from http://bagong.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/climate/climate-heat-index.