Elderly people and younger children face a higher risk of heat-related illnesses, Tri-Service General Hospital nephrologist Chu Pau-ling (朱柏齡) said yesterday.
Heatstroke, fainting, exhaustion, edema and other heat-related illnesses have affected more than 50,000 people per year since 2015, National Health Administration records show.
Chu, who heads the hospital’s heatstroke treatment and prevention center, said that people over 65 are susceptible to heat because aging causes the body to lose cooling efficiency.
He once treated an elderly person who fainted after exposure to the sun on a rooftop from about 9am to 10am, Chu said.
Elderly people with cognitive impairments are less aware of the need to shelter from the sun and hydrate, which makes heat-related illness more prevalent among them, while many get heatstroke after getting lost, he said.
Parents should not leave their children in a car unattended, as a test he conducted on Friday showed that exposed to the sun, the temperature in a vehicle’s interior can increase from 39.7°C to 53.3°C in 33 minutes, he said.
People with chronic disorders that affect vascular circulation are also vulnerable, he said, citing the case of a janitor who died at the hospital after doing light work in the sun.
Running, sunbathing or sudden exposure to heat after prolonged time in an air-conditioned environment can lead to a heat-related illness, he said.
Symptoms of heat injury include nausea, vertigo, fatigue and loss of appetite, Chu said.
Yen Hung-tsang (顏鴻章), who heads the emergency department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said that an indoor environment with poor air circulation can also pose danger to elderly or bedridden people.
Rooms inhabited by old or sick people should not exceed 30°C and carers should open windows, install at least a fan and make sure their charges’ drink enough, Yen said.
Health Promotion Administration official Tseng Po-chang (曾伯昌) said that the government does not keep a record of heat-related illnesses among children.
Parents should check the back seat of their cars, retain control of car keys and make sure teachers alert them if a child is absent from school or kindergarten, Tseng said.
People experiencing heatstroke or other heat-related illness should find shelter, loosen their clothes and cool down with a fan or by wiping their body with water, and take electrolytes until medical services arrive, he said.
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