We are getting back to that busy time of the year again when South Devon sees an influx of visitors to a lovely part of the world, where, with any luck, we shall see nice warm temperatures and sunny days. But with this beautiful weather, brings a silent killer, heat.
Each year there are more than *2,000 deaths in England and Wales related to heat and the associated effects it has on the human body. This figure is expected to rise to over 7,000 a year. So what can we do about it? Who is at risk? What are the signs?
Let’s start with whom, the young and the elderly are most at risk, those that require assistance and those with medical conditions such as asthma, COPD or with a heart related illness. What can be done? Well there are many things that can be done, but first we need to look at what is causing this.
For the very young, babies in particular, we all know that the pressure on parents in today’s world is to do everything at 100 miles an hour, and when your little one is asleep, to just leave them. All well and good when in the home, but very often it is seen where parents leave their babies in the car whilst going into a shop to collect goods, pay a bill or to browse and because they are asleep they do not want to disturb them. The temperatures can reach a staggering 78 degrees Celsius inside a car and can literally cook a baby alive, hotter than boiling water. So what can you do? If you’re on your own place a teddy in the baby seat in the car, when you put your baby in it, put the teddy in the front of the car with your handbag, phone, wallet etc this will remind you to remove your child when parking up as you would usually need your handbag or wallet to go into the shop. This is a great visual aid, simple but effective, especially where in some cases parents have said they have forgotten they had their baby with them! Children’s bodies have greater surface area to body mass ratio, so they absorb more heat on a hot day. Children also have a considerably lower sweating capacity than adults, and so they are less able to dissipate body heat by sweating and cooling.
The elderly and those that require assistance are at risk because as we all get older, we will find that our mobility is not what it was, we do not necessarily keep up a regular amount of fluids and tend to fall asleep easier, we tend to stay home and also generally have less family and friends to check on us. So, have a “buddy” someone you can visit or even call on a regular basis, just to make sure everything is ok. If you have an elderly neighbour, check on them. Keep your fluids up, plenty of water and make sure that there is a good circulation of air, by using a fan, open doors or windows and for the more elaborate an air condition unit.
For those with medical conditions that are at risk, then regular checkups by your doctor, with again the simple tasks of hydration, cool, circulating air and reading your own body to know if you are at risk.
Medical professionals say that heat stroke can occur when the body reaches 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, damage to the brain can occur and ultimately death could not be that far away.
Whilst this all sounds very scary and we all believe that it will not happen to us, the *2000+ that perish each year in England and Wales would probably have thought the same.
What should we look out for? Firstly the obvious high body temperatures, an altered mental state or behaviour, alteration in sweating, sickness and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, a racing heart and finally a headache. Whilst one of these on their own may not be an indication of heatstroke, multiple symptoms should be enough for you to get yourself checked out.
Whilst we hope for a great, fun and exciting summer this year, without any incidents, remembering the basics and being there for those at most risk is so important. Hydration, hydration and hydration are key to a great incident free summer.
Now let’s enjoy the sunshine (not forgetting that all important sun tan lotion!)
(*figures from www.lshtm.ac.uk)