Summer Heat Stress: Recognizing Symptoms and Treatment Methods

What do we know about it, and how can we treat it?
To avoid overheating, it's key to stay hydrated. (Photo: AP)
To avoid overheating, it's key to stay hydrated. (Photo: AP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Weather experts predict higher than normal temperatures this summer. As a result, many individuals, especially those spending time outdoors, may experience symptoms of heat stress.

What do we know about it, and how can we treat it?

Understanding Heat Stress

Heat exhaustion occurs from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with humidity and intense physical activity.

This condition arises when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt, usually due to excessive sweating. Symptoms include general weakness, a high heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes fainting.

Heat stress-related illnesses can vary from minor to life-threatening. Mild conditions include heat rash, swelling in the hands and feet, muscle cramps, and heat syncope, which is a fainting spell after prolonged standing.

Expert Insight

Mohamed Menisi, a professor of digestive system and liver at Kasr Al-Aini in Cairo, explains that intense exposure to heat and lack of humidity are the main causes of heat stress.

He notes that the human body adapts to its living temperature, with residents of hot countries having a better ability to handle heat than those from colder regions.

Prof. Menisi adds that heat stress can occur without direct sunlight exposure, particularly in high temperatures and humidity. Key symptoms include fainting, high body temperatures, potential kidney failure, and even bleeding in severe cases.

Vulnerable Groups

Children are particularly vulnerable to heat stress due to their bodies' insufficient compensation mechanisms. They sweat less and may not hydrate adequately.

Medical recommendations also highlight that the elderly and those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, kidney and heart diseases, and blood pressure issues, are at higher risk.

According to Menisi, these groups should take extra precautions to avoid heat stress.

Preventive Measures

To counteract heat stress, doctors recommend taking cold baths and drinking fluids to replenish lost water and salts.

It may also be necessary to move to a cooler environment and hydrate quickly, such as by riding in an air-conditioned car or drinking cold beverages.

Professor Menisi advises drinking plenty of water and immersing oneself in water, as the body cools through evaporation and heat absorption. However, he warns against taking antipyretics without consulting a doctor if experiencing heat exhaustion.

If symptoms do not improve within half an hour after cooling the body and drinking fluids, or if they worsen, immediate hospital care is necessary.

Skin Protection Tips

Doctors advise against exercising in hot weather and recommend wearing loose, light-colored clothing to keep cool. Dermatologist Noura Saeed suggests avoiding direct sunlight in the morning and using sunscreen.

"Sunscreen should be applied every 3 to 4 hours, even in the shade, to protect against harmful rays, including those from indoor lighting," she says.

Saeed also recommends drinking at least 4 liters of water daily during the summer, along with juices, vegetables, and fruits that help cool the body.

Spicy foods, such as chili peppers, should be avoided as they can exacerbate heat stress.