It’s time to protect yourself and your workforce from heatstroke

Last Updated on Friday, 16 July, 2021 at 11:40 am by Andre Camilleri

Ambient temperatures are reaching their highest peaks

Heatstroke is a condition which is caused due to overheating, when the body temperature rises to 40 degrees Celsius or higher, as a result of a prolonged exposure to excessively high ambient temperatures. Such condition is most prevalent during summer in hot, humid weather and is more likely to occur throughout physical activity or working outdoors in hot climates. Heatstroke requires immediate emergency treatment, as an untreated heatstroke may damage vital organs such as the brain, the heart, the kidneys as well as the muscles, causing an increased risk of serious complications or death.

Population groups, which are at an increased risk for heatstroke, include the elderly, those with chronic illnesses who are on certain types of medications such as anti-hypertensives, diuretics, anti-depressants or anti-psychotics, outdoor sports athletes and children. Dehydration, alcohol intoxication, as well as use of illicit drugs could also put an individual at a greater risk for developing heatstroke.

The classic warning signs and symptoms of heatstroke may include flushed skin with a core body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius or higher; an altered mental state such as confusion, lethargy, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium or seizures; nausea or vomiting; hyperventilation; palpitations and headache.

Preventive measures to avoid heatstroke include frequent and adequate water intake, limiting outdoor activities in the scorching sun, especially in high UV peaking hours (between 11am to 4pm), installation of air-conditioning systems indoors, wearing lighter garments, staying in the shade, using high SPF sunscreen, as well as never leaving anyone in parked cars, including pets.

If you think an individual may be experiencing a heatstroke, call 112 and take immediate action to cool the overheated person, such as getting them into a shady area or indoors, removing excess clothing, placing ice packs, cooling blankets or wet towels on the individual’s head, neck, armpits and groin, spray or sponge with cold water or direct cool air via a fan.

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Dr Georgiana Farrugia Bonnici, BSc (Hons) Radiography, M.D. MSc Family Medicine

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