Heat wave warning and prevention of heat exhaustion

Written by on January 10, 2013 in News

heatwave

Media release
09 January 2013
For immediate release 

Tshwane is experiencing extremely hot weather that is associated with a heat wave. This heat will be with us for quite some time, but might even return after it has subsided.

The Emergency Services Department is always ready to respond to any incident related to heat waves. So please report such incidents to the Emergency Control Centre on the following numbers: 10177 or 012 358 6300/6400.

Emergency Services would also like to provide the people of Tshwane with the following information on extremely hot weather conditions:

Vulnerable groups

The following people are vulnerable to heat waves:

  • Children: They spend more time outdoors, are more active, and their airways are not fully developed.
  • Adults exercising outdoors: Healthy people engaged in physical activity breathe faster and more deeply. This increases the amount of ozone flowing into their lungs.
  • People with respiratory diseases: People who suffer from lung or airway diseases are likely to be irritated by ozone.
  • Elderly people and people with disabilities: These people are often less mobile than other people and might suffer more from heat if they remain in the sun.
  • People with diseases like epilepsy: These people might experience seizures if they remain in the sun.

What is heat exhaustion?

The body cools itself by sweating. Should sweating be insufficient to meet the cooling demands of the body, heat-related illnesses can occur. These present with minor symptoms such as heat rash, which progresses to heat cramps, then heat exhaustion, and finally to heat stroke, a life-threatening medical condition.

What causes heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person exercises and works in a hot environment and the body cannot cool itself adequately. Dehydration occurs, as excessive sweating causes loss of water, which causes muscle cramps, weakness, and nausea and vomiting. This makes it difficult to drink enough fluid to replenish the body’s water supply. The lack of body water impairs further sweating, evaporation and cooling.

Relative humidity is another important factor in developing heat exhaustion. If the humidity is too high, sweat on the skin cannot evaporate into the surrounding air and the body cannot cool down.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

Individuals with heat exhaustion tend to have symptoms such as:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting


How do we treat heat exhaustion?

Cooling and rehydration are the cornerstones of treating heat exhaustion. Affected people should stop their activity and move from the hot environment to a cooler environment. The person may be placed in the shade or taken to an air-conditioned environment (remember that cars have air conditioning). Clothes may be removed to help with air circulation across the body. Misting the skin with cool water also helps, as it stimulates evaporation and cools the body.

Rehydration is the next important step in treating heat exhaustion. This may be a challenge if the person is nauseous and vomits. Small sips of water, a mouthful at a time, might be tolerated even if some vomiting persists. Water, sports drinks and other electrolyte replacements are good options.

If oral rehydration fails or if symptoms persist, intravenous fluids may be required to replace the water lost through excessive sweating. Hydration continues until the patient begins to urinate, a signal that there is enough fluid in the body and fluid need not be retained any longer.

Precautions

  • Use sun protection lotion when you work or play outdoors.
  • Protect your eyes and the eyes of your children from direct sunlight by wearing sun glasses or a hat with a peak.
  • Take enough water or other fluids during the day.
  • Plan sport or other outside activities for early morning or late afternoon to prevent exposure to excessive heat.
  • Make sure that animals have clean and sufficient water.
  • If you are in a swimming pool or other open water, use a sun block, as water attracts UV rays, which will cause severe burns that will only be visible later the day.
  • It is important to monitor someone with symptoms of heat exhaustion closely to ensure he or she does not lose consciousness or has seizures, which could result in death.
  • Drink water that is at room temperature, rather than ice-cold fluids.
  • However, continue to use water wisely, since we and our country need water daily to function properly, now and in the future.

For enquiries please contact: 

Johan Pieterse
Tel: 012 358 6348
Fax: 086 640 9628
Cell: 082 789 9577

johanpi@tshwane.gov.za

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