UAE doctors see increase in heat-related illnesses as temperatures soar
ABU DHABI // Doctors around the country say they are treating many cases of heat stress, exhaustion and dehydration as temperatures soar.
They called for patients to keep away from direct sunlight, to stay hydrated and to watch for dehydration symptoms in children.
Dr Lata Balakrishna, internal medicine specialist at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said many of her patients go to the beach and do not stay hydrated – a dangerous combination. The doctor warned people not to expose themselves to direct sunlight.
“Out of 30 patients that I see per day, there are a least five cases of heat exhaustion or heat stress,” Dr Balakrishna said. “We saw a lot of cases after the Eid holidays.”
Patients arrived complaining of muscle aches and pains, dehydration and fatigue.
“People are not drinking enough water,” Dr Balakrishna said. “They choose to have more fizzy drinks.”
Heat exhaustion and stress are the most common heat-related health problems, said Dr Amer Ashour, senior emergency consultant and head of department at NMC Royal Hospital in Khalifa City A.
Heat stress is when the body’s ability to control its internal temperature starts to fail. It can lead to heat exhaustion, which occurs when a person is exposed to high temperatures, or heatstroke, caused by exposure to too much direct sunlight.
The main difference between heatstroke and heat exhaustion or stress is that heatstroke affects the central nervous system.
Dr Ashour said: “Heat cramps or heat exhaustion can affect the central nervous system, if they worsen.”
Dr Anton Tan, consultant in paediatrics and neonatology at Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi, said that this year he had seen many cases of children suffering from diarrhoea and nausea caused by dehydration.
“Signs of your child getting dehydrated include dry lips, getting thirsty and lack of energy. You need to act immediately if you notice these symptoms,” Dr Tan said.
Parents should take their children to a shaded area, use sunblock and make sure they wear clothes that cover their arms and legs.
“It’s important to be sensible regarding what time you take children out. You need to make sure your child is drinking water, especially if they are outside,” he said.
Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi receives at least five patients a day for heat-related problems, said Dr Chuker Hayrab, head of the emergency department.
“Most of these cases are mild heat stress and when they come early, it’s easy to treat them. But there are fewer cases of heat exhaustion,” said Dr Hayrab. “I think people are taking good precautions.”
Symptoms of heat stress include cramps in the muscles, abdomen or legs. Treatment involves rest and drinking fluids. But mild symptoms can escalate to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which can be critical.
Patients with heat exhaustion may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, headache and confusion.
“When a person has these symptoms and a body temperature of 40°C, it can be heatstroke,” said Dr Hayrab. “The symptoms are the same, but more aggressive affecting the neurological system.
“People should be aware of the early signs and symptoms. If they feel cramps in the body, they should immediately go to a covered place, and keep taking oral rehydration fluids,” he said.
Labourers working outdoors are also particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Dr Hayrab said they should wear hats and take fluids.
Bikram, a labourer in Dubai, starts his shift at 6am and continues until noon. He gets a break from noon to 3pm.
“It’s extremely difficult to work in the heat,” he said. “Many of us workers fall sick. We get medicines at our camp for free.”
Updated: July 25, 2016 04:00 AM