Coping with Heat
Travelling to a summer or to the
tropics soon? This may mean having to cope with heat that can be
debilitating – even dangerous – for anyone, but especially for older
people with chronic conditions and young children.
The 40 degrees-plus heat that
has blanketed much of the US in July 2012 killed at least 35 people
in Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and
other states, including children left in cars.
Even travelling from southern latitudes of Australia to the heat and
humidity of the tropics of Asia, Africa or Latin America can take
some getting used to. An adult needs to drink about 3 litres of
fluid a day in a hot climate; 5 litres or more if undertaking
strenuous physical activity.
Heat can hit youngsters hard
Young children produce more body heat than older kids and adults.
They also perspire less efficiently, the body’s main mechanism for
getting rid of excess heat.
When humidity soars, head for the shade
As humidity rises, perspiration becomes less effective and your body
retains more heat. Reconsider the need to be outdoors and look for a
cool place to spend the hottest hours of the day.
Most heat-related problems are the result of dehydration, so it’s
important to drink plenty of fluids – even before you feel thirsty.
(You begin to feel thirsty when approximately one litre dehydrated.)
Non-alcoholic fluids produce perspiration to keep your body cool and
your brain and other vital organs functioning normally. Always carry
water with you and maintain a constant intake – up to 1 litre an
hour if exercising or walking.
Passing light yellow urine several times a day is the best indicator
of adequate hydration.
Take it easy, sport
Sports drinks replace sodium, chloride and other elements lost
through perspiration and may be considered for older children and
adults – especially after strenuous activity during hot weather.
However, they can actually slow water absorption and should be
consumed along with water – not instead of it. Dilute them with four
parts water for younger children.
Dress for the heat
Lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting … Those should be your
watchwords when it comes to dressing for heatwave conditions. Cotton
‘breathes’ better than most synthetic materials and absorbs
perspiration, helping to cool your body.
Recognise the warning signs
During a heatwave, heat can cause a range of symptoms – muscle
cramps, tiredness, nausea, vomiting - even an altered mental state.
Once again, kids are more susceptible. In toddlers not yet speaking,
irritability can be an early sign of heat stress. The first step is
to lower the person’s temperature as quickly as possible by getting
them to a cool space, such as an air-conditioned car. (See below for
more on treatment)
Take time to acclimatise
It can take time to adjust to the higher temperatures in a hot,
humid country – especially for kids and people who are overweight.
Take it easy for a day or two until all members of the family are
ready to tackle the holiday sightseeing schedule. Twenty minutes of
light to moderate exercise in the cooler part of the day helps you
to acclimatise, allowing you to gradually increase the length of
time and intensity of exercise.
Never leave kids alone in a car
Everyone has heard the tragic stories of a mother or father leaving
a young child in a car, yet every summer children die or are
permanently injured. Even a minor distraction can turn ‘just a few
minutes’ into, well, much longer.
Remember a car can heat up from 27o C to 49° C in just 15 minutes!
There are two stages to heat stress - heat exhaustion and heat
Heat exhaustion:The key to treating heat exhaustion is rehydration
and rest. Start with sips of cool to cold water and gradually
increase intake to 250mls every 15 minutes. Between 2 and 3 litres
of fluid over 2-3 hours may be required to complete the rehydration
Heat stroke:The next stage of heat exhaustion is heat stroke. The
signs are changes in the level of consciousness, irritability,
hallucinations, and ataxia (unsteadiness in walking). Heat stroke is
a medical emergency. The person should be taken to the nearest
medical facility without delay
* The Travel Centre and its
associates are not a medical centre or trained medically. We offer these links as a guide
only. By displaying these establishments we do not offer any recommendation for any
particular service. We just recommend that you get as much information as possible, make
an appointment at your nearest practice, and get the relevant medications and
inoculations. Advance preparation means safer traveling.