Heat-related health risks increase as summer approaches

April 26, 2023 - 10:35
Doctors warn that being active in a high-temperature environment could lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening when the body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius.
Farmers are one of the outdoor workers most susceptible to heat stroke during hot weather. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Văn Trí

HCM CITY — As summer approaches, the scorching heat in major cities poses health risks to people, especially those who work outdoors and young children.

Required to be on the move all day for work, 42-year-old Thiện from HCM City said that the weather in the past few days was the most unbearable since Tết (Lunar New Year).

Although he takes precautions and brings a large water bottle, it is still insufficient to ease the heat.

Thiện told Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper: “Sometimes I feel dizzy when moving around on the street. It feels very uncomfortable, and I’m covered in sweat.

“When I’m driving long distances and don’t really get a chance to drink water, my throat is extremely dry.”

For Nhung (not her real name), the blazing heat in recent days means her chronic sinusitis is back with headaches, a runny nose, sneezing and sinus pain.

She said: “I thought it would only recur when it’s cold and rainy, but it turns out extreme heat would also cause the problem.”

Young children are also vulnerable to the hot weather. Many of them have had to be admitted to hospitals due to respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases indirectly caused by the heat.

Dr Đoàn Thị Thanh Hồng from the Respiratory Department of HCM City Children’s Hospital 2 said that in recent days, the facility had received multiple patients with pneumonia, asthma and gastroenteritis.

Meanwhile, at outpatient clinics, the hospital records a 20 per cent increase in child patients with respiratory diseases related to the extreme heat.

Dr Hồng said: “The temperature change tends to cause respiratory problems in children, as well as skin and gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroenteritis.”

Doctors at HCM City Children’s Hospital 2 warned that being active in a high-temperature environment could lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening when the body temperature rises above 40 degrees Celsius.

This medical emergency can also damage the central nervous system and other body tissues.

Dr Nguyễn Văn Chi from A9 Emergency Centre of Hà Nội’s Bạch Mai Hospital said that as the long holiday approaches this weekend, families should be cautious about their children’s health when travelling.

When children show signs of dehydration, fever, headache, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, they need to be immediately taken to medical facilities for treatment.

Dr Phan Thái Sơn, deputy head of the intensive care unit at the HCM City University Medical Centre (under HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy), said that anyone is at risk of heat stroke, especially when the person spends over one hour in the 40 degrees Celsius temperature.

People particularly susceptible to heat stroke are farmers and construction workers. Moreover, when builders have to climb the ladders on high-rise constructions, heat stroke can make them dizzy and cause serious slip-and-fall accidents.

Symptoms of a heat stroke can range from fatigue, dizziness and headache to a decline in cognitive abilities, breathing difficulties, low blood pressure, increased heart rate and even coma.

If undetected, the symptoms can develop into kidney failure and muscular and tendon degeneration, affecting the brain and the heart, leading to fatality without prompt medical treatment.

Dr Sơn recommended that people drink enough water, wear light clothing, and refrain from staying outdoors from 11am to 2pm.

People should also put on wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, masks and protective clothing when working outside and take regular breaks in the shade after around one hour of work, he said.

If a person suffers from a heat stroke, they should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated space and provided water or electrolyte drinks. Wet towels could also be used to help them cool down.

If the patient is in a coma and has difficulty breathing, they must be immediately taken to the nearest medical facility, said Dr Sơn. — VNS