As temperature soars, doctors caution against dehydration & heatstroke

With schools having reopened after two years, and temperatures soaring with every passing day, schoolchildren will have to bear the brunt of the onset of summers. The most common problem is dehydration, especially if they stay outdoors for long.

Dr Vikas Bhutani, MD, Director – Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, in an advisory has advised that schoolchildren should avoid moving out of their classrooms in extreme heatwave conditions this season especially, as for the past two years due to online classes, they have not been used to moving out in extreme summers. Children must carry water bottles to school daily and those playing outdoors should take extra care to keep themselves well-hydrated at all times this summer.

Dehydration can manifest in different ways ranging from giddiness to exhaustion and abdominal discomfort. Severe dehydration often manifests as hypovolemic shock requiring hospitalisation. Elderly people can even have alteration in sensorium due to fluid deficit in the body due to dehydration.

Urinary tract infection is another common problem that affects children and adults alike, again due to dehydration and not replenishing their bodies with adequate fluids. Diarrhoea is another disease that peaks during summer due to people resorting to even unclean sources of water to quench thirst.

Heatstroke is a condition caused when the body is overheated, usually because of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke signs and symptoms include high body temperature, altered mental state or behaviour, alteration in sweating, nausea, and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and headache. Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of serious complications or death.

Dr Ashwani Bhatnagar, head of department, Medicine, Civil Hospital, Panchkula, suggests that people should keep their heads covered to prevent direct contact with heat, wear full-sleeved clothes, avoid going out in the sun after having alcoholic drinks, coffee, heavy meals when going out in the sun and avoid smoking. “People should take plenty of fluids, such as coconut water, ORS drinks, fruit juices, etc, apart from liberal intake of water to keep them well-hydrated. Even water-filled fruits such as melon and watermelon should be taken as routine to maintain proper hydration. Avoid standing or working for long in extreme heat conditions. Keep your body cool and hydrated during the heatwave this summer,” adds Dr Bhutani.

Dr Sonia Gandhi, head, Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Fortis, adds that staying well-hydrated is essential in maintaining adequate blood volume, energy levels and body functions. Most people consume at least eight-12 cups a day. But the exact amount depends on the activity level, the outdoor temperature, and your body composition, adds Gandhi. “One quick estimation of dehydration is to check colour of your urine. You want it to be pale to colourless. Along with the fluid intake, certain dietary modifications are required to beat the sunny heat of summers,” adds Gandhi.

Diet tips

– Adequate intake of fluids helps in hydrating the body and assists in the removal of toxins, drugs, and other metabolites.

– All soft drinks that are rich in sugar, preservatives and colours are avoided. Dilute phosphoric acid is seen in many cold drinks. These drinks damage the gastrointestinal lining and cause calcium leaching from the bones.

– Carbonated, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks cause a lot of water loss through urination. As the temperature around you soars, cool with spiced lemonade, fruit cocktails, puréed melon drinks and diluted lassi.

– It is common practice to drink chilled liquids which should be avoided as chilled liquids tighten or constrict blood vessels and reduce body heat loss.

– Go for seasonal fruits and vegetables and say no to winter vegetables in spite of their availability.

-Seasonal fruits (melons) and vegetables (gourd family), onions, and cucumber are easy to digest, have better taste, and have great nutritional value.

– Dried fruits must be restricted and should be replaced by fresh fruits, as they supply a good amount of water, in addition to vitamins and minerals. Besides being easy to digest, these fruits and vegetables help in reducing our body temperature.


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