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  Emergency & First Aid

May 2010
Mercury Rising
Dr O R Kumaran
From the irritating prickly heat to the life threatening heat stroke, summer brings in a whole package of illnesses. Staying well hydrated is very much part of the solution.

It is a mistake to think that you have to be a heavy drinker to run into problems. Although it can take as long as 10 to 15 years, drinking just a bit more than you should, over time, can seriously harm your liver. Not feeling any side effects from drinking does not mean that you are not risking chronic ill-health or lasting liver damage from alcohol-related liver disease.

Heat Syncope
Summer is no time to be constantly outdoors, but you really can’t help it at times. Be careful – standing for a prolonged time under the hot sun can make you faint. This is due to pooling of blood in the legs, fall in blood pressure and transient loss of consciousness.

Solution: Heat syncope can be treated by making the patient lie in the shade, and giving him a drink of water or tender coconut water. Simple, but effective.

Heat Cramps
If your job (or sport) makes you do heavy muscular work in hot humid climate, you could get heat cramps. There will be an intense pain in the legs and tummy due to excess loss of salt in the sweat.

Solution: Just ensure that you have enough water with a few grams of common salt, to get these cramps off.

Heat Exhaustion
This condition occurs after exposure to hot weather for a few days and is due to inadequate water and salt intake. There may be some increase in body temperature with exhaustion, weakness and giddiness.

Solution: The patient may need to be hospitalised and given intravenous saline and plenty of oral fluids. Mostly, this affects the elderly.

Heat Hyperpyrexia and Heat Stroke
The affected person would have very high temperature (hyperpyrexia), may become unconscious sometimes and even throws fits. There is real danger to life - many deaths are reported in summer due to heat stroke. You can get a heatstroke even if you are technically not out in the sun: the rising temperature, even if you are in the shade or indoors, can raise your body temperature. The thermal regulatory function in the brain would be impaired, causing grave problems - literally.

Solution: Since this is a serious condition, the person will have to be rushed to the Emergency of the nearest hospital at the earliest. Treatment includes intravenous fluids and replacement of electrolytes.
Dr. O.R. Kumaran is Sr. Consultant Physician at Apollo Speciality Hospitals, Madurai

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