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Friday, May 24, 2024

Heat waves: public health advice

Every year, heat adversely affects the health of many people, especially the elderly. It can cause exhaustion, heart attacks and confusion, and aggravate existing pathologies such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

While heat waves are expected to increase as a result of climate change, their effects on health are largely avoidable.

Tips for the general public during a heat wave

  • Keep your home cool by regularly monitoring the temperature. Ideally, this should be kept below 32°C during the day and 24°C at night. Indoor temperatures can be lowered by fitting sun-exposed windows with blinds or shutters, opening windows at night and early in the morning, and hanging damp towels to cool the ambient air.
  • Don't expose yourself to the heat. Occupy the coolest room in your home, especially at night. Avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day. If possible, avoid strenuous physical activity. Stay in the shade. Don't leave children or pets in parked vehicles.
  • Keep your body cool and hydrated. Take cool showers or baths. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing made of natural materials. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap and sunglasses. In bed, use light sheets, without pillows, to avoid heat build-up. Drink regularly, but avoid alcohol and excessive consumption of caffeine and sugary drinks. Eat light meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods.
  • Help others, keep an eye on family, friends and neighbors who spend most of their time alone. Elderly or sick people living alone should be visited at least once a day. If you are taking medication, ask your doctor how it can affect thermoregulation and fluid balance.
  • Store below 25°C or refrigerate (see storage instructions on packaging).
  • Consult a doctor if you suffer from a chronic condition or are taking multiple medications.
  • If you or others feel unwell (dizziness, weakness, anxiety, intense thirst or headache), please consult a doctor. Take shelter in a cool place as soon as possible, and take your temperature. Drink water or fruit juice to rehydrate. Rest immediately in a cool place if you experience painful muscle spasms; drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes; and seek medical help if heat cramps last for more than an hour. Consult your physician if you experience unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.
  • If anyone experiences hot, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and/or unconsciousness, call a doctor or ambulance immediately.