Summertime – When Temperature Impacts Health

Humans are generally good at adapting to high temperatures. The body tries to cool down in several ways. The most […]

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Humans are generally good at adapting to high temperatures. The body tries to cool down in several ways. The most important way it does this is by sweat, which then evaporates…

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Summertime – When Temperature Impacts Health

In the Gulf countries, summertime is very hot and sunny. Especially during mid-June to mid-September, daytime temperatures usually range from 38 °C to 42 °C and can reach 50 °C on some extremely hot days. This increases the risk of developing diseases related to high temperatures and humidity, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat can also worsen existing conditions and cause problems with the cardiovascular or respiratory system. 

Our body´s intelligent air conditioning

Humans are generally good at adapting to high temperatures. The body tries to cool down in several ways. The most important way it does this is by sweat, which then evaporates. The body increases the circulation of the blood to give off as much heat through the skin as possible. It does this by widening the blood vessels. 

The body´s natural cooling system to maintain normal body temperature during periods of extreme heat may be deteriorated, when you do not drink enough for the body to produce enough sweat or if you lose to much salt through your sweat.  Heat-related problems are indicated by headaches and indisposition, circulation problems, confusion and in extreme cases loss of consciousness. If not recognized and treated early, this can lead to serious illnesses and even death. 

Typical heat illnesses: Heat Exhaustion, Heat Cramp, Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion  

is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: 

  • Headache 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness 
  • Irritability 
  • Thirst 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Elevated body temperature 
  • Decreased urine output 

Heat cramps 

usually affect workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps in the muscles. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion. 

Muscle fiber break down (“rhabdomyolysis”)  

is a medical condition associated with heat stress and prolonged physical exertion. Rhabdomyolysis causes the rapid breakdown and death of muscle. When muscle tissue dies, electrolytes and large proteins are released into the bloodstream. This can cause irregular heart rhythms, seizures, and damage to the kidneys. Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include: 

  • Muscle cramps/pain 
  • Abnormally dark (tea or cola-colored) urine 
  • Weakness 
  • Exercise intolerance 

Heat stroke  

is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly to 40 °C or higher, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.  

Symptoms of heat stroke include: 

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech 
  • Loss of consciousness (coma) 
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating 
  • Seizures 
  • Very high body temperature 
  • Fatal if treatment delayed  

Summer depression 

Winter depression is widely known in countries with long, cold and dark winter months. But in the UAE, the reverse condition may exist in reverse, a research team from Zayed University has stated already in 2011. Residents of the Emirates may be prone to an inverted variety of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) after being trapped indoors due to the intolerable heat of the summer months. We dedicate a separate Blog to that next month, stay informed and follow us!  

Heat Risk Persons – Who we need to care about most

People in at-risk groups respond particularly sensitively to heat or are unable to make sufficient adjustments to their behavior, either by personal reasons or due to their working conditions. 

People most at risk are :

  • outdoor worker (construction, gardening, etc.) 
  • outdoor sports athletes 
  • pregnant or breastfeeding women 
  • older people and people in need of care, particularly if they live alone 
  • babies and infants 
  • people with memory problems who are dependent on other people’s help 
  • people who regularly take certain medication such as diuretic and hypertensive drugs, or carry medical patches (medication is released from patches differently under heat) 
  • people with physical and mental impairments  
  • people with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes 
  • people with acute conditions, particularly fever 
  • people who consume alcohol and psychoactive drugs

If you know a person who is particularly at risk, if in your family, in your neighborhood or your company, offer your assistance and help. 

“Safety in Heat”- UAE takes care about their worker

The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) is dedicated in protecting the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of Abu Dhabi’s population by raising public and preventative healthcare awareness. ADPHC relaunched its annual “Safety in Heat” program coinciding with the decision to prohibit work during midday hours in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi for a duration of three months from June 15 to September 15 of every year. 

“Safety in Heat” program aims to raise awareness among employers and supervisors on the importance of taking the necessary measures to protect workers from heat and avoid exposure to heat stress. The program also focuses on educating workers about the risks of being under the sun during midday, and ways to avoid the negative implications of sun exposure. 

 Find more information and download material for workers, supervisors, managers and the public at: 

Other emirates such as Dubai (Dubai Municipal – Health and Safety Department) or Sharjah (Occupational Safety & Health) or Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar, among other, have launched similar governmental safety programs for the hot summer months. Have a look for guidelines in your region and take them seriously.

Stay informed – Follow us 

Learn more about prevention and first aid? Follow us for our next blog on 7th July.  

TheKnowHow 

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