Heatstroke: Be alert for early symptoms, say health specialists

  • Nation
  • Friday, 28 Apr 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: The public is advised to be alert for early signs of heatstroke especially among children and the elderly, to avoid unwanted incidents.

A general practitioner, Dr Arisman Wenge Abdul Rahman said heatstroke is a disease caused by heat-related illnesses which is preceded by a heat cramp, followed by heat exhaustion.

"The person will get heat cramps first, like muscle cramps and if the person continues to be exposed to hot weather, usually when the temperature has risen above 32 degrees Celsius, he/she will go to the next phase, which is heat exhaustion," he told Bernama.

He said the symptoms of heat exhaustion include an increase in body temperature to 39 degrees Celsius, fast heartbeat, dizziness or headache and extreme fatigue.

"If the symptoms are visible in an individual, immediate steps should be taken to help the person concerned, like loosening or removing the clothing, getting the person to shower or wet parts of the body such as the head, neck and armpits, then move the person to a place where it is cool and give cold drinks immediately.

"If this first aid is not done, then the risk of the person getting heatstroke is very high... the individual will become more and more lethargic and soon the important organs in the body will be affected," he said.

Dr Arisman Wenge said if the body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, it would also affect the brain and could cause delirium, fainting and convulsions.

"The difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion is that in heat stroke the individual will not sweat because of severe dehydration, the skin becomes dry and skin turgor is reduced.

"A person suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke also has no urine due to severe dehydration and this can cause damage to the kidney and the brain and heart also begin to swell and can stop functioning at any time," he said.

Based on media reports, two children, aged 11 years and 18 months, died believed due to heatstroke in Kelantan recently.

Meanwhile, Community Health Specialist at the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said apart from children and the elderly, those working as despatch and food riders also need to be aware of the risk of heat stroke.

"Don't take it lightly, especially if they have other illnesses... this causes them to drink less, as well as urinate less, and when it gets a little hot, they can get heat stroke.

"If it's very hot outside and they are out for a long time, they can also get (heat stroke). Employers should allow their riders to rest so that they will not be too exposed to the hot weather," she said.

A businessman, Eric Tay, 44, said that he made it a habit for his seven-year-old son to drink plenty of water by reminding the boy to drink at least every half an hour, especially after doing physical activity.

"With this heat wave, my wife will usually get our son to bring along a 1.5-litre bottle of water to school to make sure that he always drinks as a precaution against dehydration," he said.

Norsiah Mohamed, 37, from Bandar Baru Bangi, had similar concerns and always tells her 10-year-old daughter to remain indoors as much as possible while in school.

"However, if there is no choice but for her to be outdoors, I remind her to splash her face with water frequently to disperse the accumulated heat, besides drinking plenty of water," said the housewife. - Bernama

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