What are the dangers of extreme heat? How do you keep yourself safe in a heatwave?

Here are a few pointers and tip to keep in mind during the heat wave that Indis is going through.

India is currently facing a heat wave of epic proportions. It is expected to continue for the next few days as per predictions by the Indian Met Department (IMD). Eight of the fifteen hottest cities on 2 June were in India, according to a recent El Dorado report.

While many will welcome warmer days, a heat wave is an extreme, an anomaly. It is an extended period of time when temperatures cross normal limits — and stay that way. This week, for instance, temperatures in many Western and Northern states crossed 45 degrees Celcius, touching 50 degrees. Heatwaves can cause have severe health consequences in people, and it is imperative that we take all precautions necessary to steer clear of a heatstroke.

What are the dangers of extreme heat? How do you keep yourself safe in a heatwave?

Sparrows drinking water from a faucet. Image credit: Flickr

What does a heatstroke look and feel like?

There are three main effects that heat waves have on health: heat strokes, exhaustion, and dehydration. Babies, young children, the elderly and the poor are the more vulnerable. People who mainly work outside, play sports, or suffer from chronic diseases are also vulnerable.

What can you do to avoid heatstrokes?

H2O

As repetitive as it sounds, being hydrated is the best solution. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches and nausea, hence Dr Bhaskar Somani, a urological surgeon at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, USA has advised people to drink three litres of water a day.  However, excess water is also a problem as it can cause an imbalance in your body. Opt for the humble nimbu pani or add some ORS to your water to give your body a much-needed electrolyte boost.

Drink less

Avoid alcohol as it generates heat in the body. Iced teas and coffees are a better option for your regular cuppa. Fruit and vegetable juices are healthy as well and will also keep you satiated. Cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, etc,  should be eaten as they have higher water content and can provide you with that extra fluid.

Stay in — stay cool

Staying indoors and using the air conditioner with closed doors and windows is advised for your health during a heat wave. Fair warning, though: in higher temperatures, transmission lines also have a lower capacity to carry power, and power cuts can grow more regular in cities depending on where you live. Use lighter-coloured curtains, and keep them closed to reflect heat away from your home.

However, not all sunlight is bad for you and vitamin D is important. Doctors recommend taking in the early morning- mid-day sun and the amount of vitamin D one would need depends on their skin colour.

Have cold showers

Doctors recommend cold showers after a heated workout as they are a good way to encourage better circulation of blood, improve your immunity and cool the entire body down. That advice translates to heat waves as well. They also have a variety of health benefits.

Avoid tight clothes

While you might want to shed all the layers, covering up in a heatwave is important. Sun damage is real and wearing loose clothing will leave you breezy and airy. The debate is still on whether people should avoid dark clothes in the summer or no. So go with your gut. Opting for natural, organic cloths like cotton, linen, etc is also a good idea as they let the skin breath and the sweat will be absorbed and dries faster. They also come highly recommended by fashion designers.

Sunscreen is not makeup, guys — seriously.

Lather up on sunscreen and keep those sunglasses on, always. A hat or cap can give you added protection when you are outdoors.

Give them animals and pets some love!

While taking care of yourself, do not forget, that animals and birds need to be protected from the heat as well. Keep all pets inside or use those cute booties for your dogs when you take them out for walks. For birds, give them sufficient water by refilling their bowls regularly. They may not say it, but they'll appreciate it.

There are stray animals and birds that need help as well. Water bowls can also be left outside in the balcony or backyards for those fortunate souls. A plate of seeds or grains, for the birds, will not cost you much but it will reduce the amount they have to fly in search of food.

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