Tips on how to survive the heatwave
Posted Monday, March 21 2016 at 02:00
When the temperatures approach dangerous levels, you need to know how to keep cool to avoid heat-related illnesses -- and even death, writes Gillian Nantume.
It is hot! In fact, it is so hot that I do not remember the last time I entered my bed. These are some of the comments you have probably heard as you interact with different people. The funny thing is that the heat does not hit you in the same way.
There are times, especially after 1pm when the sun is directly overhead. You can feel it prickling your skin. At that time, your only thought is to get out of the sun.
But the worst part is when there is not sign of the sun – in the early morning and evening – yet you feel the heat wrap around you in a suffocating grip.
“The fan in my bedroom has been working nonstop for three days now,” says Michael Asaba, adding that he has reached a point where he does not care about his growing electricity bill.
“I wake up at 5am to the heat clinging on my skin,” he says, adding, “I sweat at that time, and immediately after my bath, I begin sweating again. How can I take off the fan?”
Such is the heat that some people leave their windows open the entire night. Emma Ochieng is one of such people.
“Previously, I never would think of opening my bedroom window at night because the path that leads to the trading centre passes behind our home. But now, at about 3am, I usually wake up and open the window.”
Ochieng says his wife is not comfortable with the idea.
“We lock up the bedroom during the day since we both work. By the time we return at 7pm, the room is stuffy and hot to sleep comfortably in.
Is it healthy to keep the fan on?
Keeping the fan on during the night may seem a simple measure to combat a persistent problem. After all, with the fan, the air in the bedroom keeps on circulating. However, this, to an extent may not be right.
Dr Ben Kiyingi of Friends Medical Centre, says there is a risk of developing respiratory problems.
“I know many people are sleeping with fans on but it can lead to respiratory infections. This is especially if the person is sleeping in the direct line of the air from the fan or air conditioner.”
The problems one can develop are upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
Keep your body hydrated
In a heatwave like the one we are facing, you are bound to sweat more often than you normally do.
“I had never sweated on my legs and arms before, but now, there are times when I pass my hands on my legs to remove dust and I discover that my hands are damp,” says Anne Ssenyange, a housewife.
Most of the problems that develop in a heatwave such as flu are mainly caused by dehydration of the body.
Dorothy Namayanja, a nutritionist, advises that in normal weather, it is recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water.
“However, in a hot season you can go beyond the eight glasses. There is no problem with drinking a lot of weather. Even fresh juices are good as well.”
Steer away from endless cups of tea or bottles of cool beer. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate your body.
Lots of water also helps the kidneys in their function of removing the toxins from our bodies.
Combating fluid retention
Because your body loses a lot of water through sweating, it tries to retain a certain amount of it. This water retention can lead to peripheral or heat edema, which is the swelling of the body, especially around the legs, ankles, and feet.
The swellings are usually painless and are more prone in overweight people, pregnant women and the elderly.
“To prevent this, keep your body cool by drinking lots of water and avoid prolonged sitting or standing,” says Dr Kiyingi, adding, “If your feet are already swollen, then elevating your legs as you sit, combats the problem and allows fluids to drain out of the legs.”
Also limit your salt intake during the hot weather. Exercises also help.
This may come as a surprise but you have to make sure you are eating the right food. During a heatwave, metabolism is slower. If you stuff yourself on heavy meals, you will end up feeling exhausted because these meals take a lot of time and energy to digest.
“To deal with the low rate of metabolism, you need to eat lots of fruits and vegetables,” Namayanja says, adding, “Cut down of the calories since by the end of the day you will be too tired to do exercises that can breakdown the food.”
The nutritionist advises that instead of eating a tiny portion of vegetables with a meal, in this season, the vegetables should be more than the meal.
“You normally see people eating a lot of rice with a little nakati on the side. Starchy foods, such as rice, should be avoided. Instead, let the rice be little and the vegetables a lot on the plate.”
Lighter meals are meant to ease up and hasten the digestion process.
Dressing for the heat
The often quoted adage says that smartness knows no weather. Whoever coined that saying had never lived in a heatwave before. Dressing appropriately for the heat means that you will have to put away your heavy clothing for a while.
Dress as lightly as possible, with natural fabrics such as linen and cotton. The colour of your clothes also matters, since dark colours tend to retain heat. Consider owning a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
“Besides sweating a lot, I always feel a great tiredness deep in my body,” says Lilly Atieno, continuing, “It’s like the day has shorter hours. When I sit in a taxi to go home, I always fall asleep. In the morning when I wake up, I am so tired. It is just a cycle of tiredness.”
Heat exhaustion can come in many forms with symptoms such as fatigue, heavy sweating, dizziness and muscle cramps.
“Drink lots of cool water to prevent heat exhaustion and in as much as is possible, and take a lot of rests in cool places to regulate your body temperature,” Dr Kiyingi advises.
If you can afford to, once in a while take an energy drink to boost your energy supply.
Do not forget the children
As you take so many glasses of water to cool down, look out for your children as well. They need to be hydrated so that they do not walk around with chapped lips.
Some mothers have a tendency to leave their children in a parked car, as they dash off to buy something for “a few minutes.” This is wrong as the children may be trapped in a hot car for some time and suffer heat exhaustion.
The same applies to your pets. Give them water regularly, especially if they are punting excessively.
Invest in fans in your home
Make sure to open the doors and windows of your home during the day to encourage free air circulation.
At the end of the day, soak your feet in a basin of water. This can be very soothing especially if you have been on your feet for most of the day.
Have a bath before you go to bed to cool down your body.
During the night, the energy released from light bulbs can increase the heat. If you are not using the light, switch it off.