Heatstroke-related deaths likely to increase this year: Experts

Heatstroke a medical emergency, can affect internal organs

india-heat-summer-pti A man drinks water to quench his thirst on a hot summer afternoon | PTI

At a time when people are finding it difficult to cope with the scorching heat, giving rise to possibilities of heatstroke, health experts recommend taking immediate steps towards addressing the issue of climate change.

Maharashtra has recently recorded 14 deaths due to heatstroke. Dr Rajendra Gupta, founder of Health Parliament, a platform that brings together healthcare stakeholders and policymakers, warned that the mortality rate due to heatstroke can witness an increase as temperatures soar in coming months.

"Climate change is a huge factor contributing to the number of deaths caused due to heatstroke,” says Gupta . “Given the heat wave, more people may lose their lives this year. The ministry of health should come up with a proper warning and preventive steps people should take when they are exposed to such a weather," said Gupta.

He said a scientific study should be conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research on the impact of heat wave on a large population every year. Moreover, technical experts of the Director General of Health Services can advice the government on what steps need to be taken to address the health concerns around it.

Some of the common causes of heatstroke include dehydration, poor ventilation, inability to sweat resulting in symptoms such as continuous nausea, vomiting, and increase in pulse rate (that can even lead to death).

Further, the symptoms of heatstroke that must not be ignored are cool and moist skin with goosebumps when in heat, heavy sweating, dizziness, low blood pressure while standing, muscle cramps and headache, informed Dr Ajay Aggarwal, Director of Internal Medicine in Fortis Hospital.

The heat wave typically occurs from March to June, and in some cases, may extend till July. The worst months for heat wave are April and May, and early June.

Several states that get affected due to heat wave are Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Elderly people may be more prone to heatstroke because of co-existing illnesses and the use of medicines. "Heatstroke in itself is a medical emergency as the body temperatures are not in control which can cause damage to internal organs like kidney, heart and brain," said Dr Rajiva Gupta, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at CK Birla Hospital.

The condition is preventable though. The firstaid for heatstroke includes some simple yet important steps like standing in shade, removal of excessive clothing, cold-water shower, applying ice pack on head, neck, arms and using wet towels.

There is advice even for the fit and healthy. Gupta says, “Avoid going outside for exercise when the temperature and humidity are high”. Sipping water every 15 minutes while working out or exercising in a hot environment is the key.

“In extreme heat, you can drink 500 ml to 1 litre water every hour. Since the body also needs electrolytes, you can add sugar and salt or glucose to your water,” he added.