Caution urged against heat stroke

COOL THOUGHTS::With last month setting records for high temperatures and the heat likely to continue for this summer, doctors have tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Jul 06, 2013 - Page 3

With the recent hot weather triggering a big surge in heat stroke cases, and a number of deaths, health authorities yesterday urged the public to take precautions and drink plenty of water when outdoors.

Department of Health (DOH) data show that 427 people nationwide required emergency treatment at hospitals for heat stroke last month, a new monthly high for the past seven years.

The scorching heat has been hitting daytime highs near or above 35°C in most cities and regions around the nation.

Records were set for the highest overall average temperature in June since weather data began being compiled in 1896 — with Taipei hitting 29.2°C, Hsinchu County registering 28.9°C and Chiayi City seeing 28.8°C, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Tsai Kuang-chao (蔡光超), head of emergency ward services at Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City (新北市), said he has seen a rise in heat stroke and heat exhaustion cases in recent weeks.

“When someone is sweating profusely, they should replenish by drinking water right away. If a person is suffering from heat stroke, they must seek treatment immediately, or else their life might be in danger,” he said.

He reminded the public to pay special attention to children and the elderly, because they are more at risk since they are less able to cope with hot temperatures and their body’s thermal regulation may weaken or break down if they suffer from heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

A health department official said that as soon as the initial symptoms of heat exhaustion appear — a high temperature, red swelling of the skin, profuse sweating, accelerated heartbeat and breathing, headache, dizziness, nausea and/or feeling of fatigue — people should seek the shade or go indoors to rest.

Sufferers should loosen their clothing and drink water, he said, and if it is certain that a person is suffering heat stroke, water or a wet towel should be used to wipe their entire body down to cool it and medical treatment should be sought right away.

A delay in treatment could endanger lives, he said.

Chang Wen-han (張文瀚), head of the Emergency Medicine Department at the Taipei Mackay Memorial Hospital, said heat stroke can be serious, especially for people who already have impaired kidneys or heart problems.

“For individuals with heart problems, it may trigger a myocardial infarction [heart attack]. So people should drink plenty of water, stay in cool areas, stay away from direct exposure to the sun and wear clothing that can conduct heat away from the body,” Chang said.