Extreme Heat and Heat Stroke

November 27, 2011
Summertime in Bangkok (March-May) can be a surprisingly hot experience for people who arrive from the northern hemisphere due to the increased heat and humidity. Exposure to extreme heat can sometimes lead to serious health complications. Therefore, it is very important for visitors to protect themselves from the extreme heat so that they can still enjoy the sights and experiences of Bangkok.  

Here are some general guidelines for heat stroke recommended by the Centre of Disease Control in the USA (2009) 

  • Drink lots of water. For most people, 1.5 liters a day or 10 glasses is recommended. 
  • Avoid alcohol or large amounts of sugar. They actually cause you to lose body fluid. 
  • Replace salt and minerals due to heavy perspiration. Sports beverages are great. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk to your doctor before drinking sports beverages or taking salt tablets. 
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose light weight, loose-fitting, light colored clothing. Wear sunglasses with a low brimmed hat to protect your eyes. Choose sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection and apply 30 minutes before going out. If you suspect an allergy to sunscreen, please your consult your doctor before applying. 
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully and pace yourself. The sun is the most intense between 10 am to 3 pm every day. Try to avoid outdoor activities during these hours. If you feel tired, drink water and rest up.
  • Stay cool indoors. Air conditioning in malls or other public facilities comes in handy.
  • Use common sense and keep cool.  Avoid hot foods and heavy meals – they add heat to your body. 
  • Monitor those who are at high risk. Infants and children are sensitive to high heat. People over 65 years of age may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to respond to changes in temperature. Do not overexert doing work or exercise. 

Some warning signs of Heat Stroke

  • Extreme high body temperature (above 103 F or 39 C, orally)
  • Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness

What to do if you encounter a victim of heat stroke

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency and will need to have someone call for immediate medial assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following:  
  • Get victim into a shady area. Call medical assistance as soon as possible
  • Cool victim down rapidly using whatever methods you can, for example, immerse or dip body into cool water, place victim in cool shower, spray with cool water or fan vigorously
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink to prevent choking
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until body temperature drops to 101-102 F
  • Bring victim to hospital for further examination
Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side. 
Contributed by Bumrungrad International hospital.
Reference: CDC, July 2009 
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