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I hail from Rajasthan which lies in the western part of India. It is a very dry area with low rainfall and a desert to boast for landscape. The temperature variations are extreme; ranging from -2 degrees in winters to 40 - 45 degrees in summers. I can confidently say that I really know what is meant by “hot”. The heat, length and dreariness of summers is not limited to Western India which also struggles with low rainfall but extends to other parts as well, where high heat and humidity make summer afternoons unbearable.
The data regarding the incidence or prevalence of heat related illnesses in India is not available, but most Indians have read about or known deaths due to heat waves (common in summers). In 1998 about 81 cases of heat stroke were recorded in the city of Chennai (former Madras) during a 23 day long spell of very high heat and humidity .
Some of the common conditions which are prevalent in summers and sometimes prove to be life-threatening are:
• Heat stroke/sun stroke/hyperthermia
• Heat cramps- muscle spasms due to loss of water while exercising
• Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
• Heat exhaustion
Sun stroke or heat stroke is an illness caused by prolonged exposure to very hot temperatures or dehydration. It can also be caused if the body’s own temperature regulation mechanisms fail to work properly.
There are a few things that we can do to prevent them:
A) MODIFYING OUR DIET
1. Drink water- lots of it. On an average, body loses half litre of water through skin and breath. In summers the losses increase due to increased sweating.
2. Avoid dehydrating beverages- alcohol, tea, coffee, beer and colas; all dehydrate our system as well as increase our pulse rate which increases body heat. Do not take these while venturing out.
3. Opt for rehydrating & refreshing beverages - Coconut water, Nimbu paani(lemonade),Chach/Namkeen lassi (salted buttermilk with optional addition of spices), Lassi (sweet yogurt based drink), Aloe vera juice, fresh orange juice, Thandai (a traditional milk based drink with various condiments including,poppy, fennel, cardamom and musk melon seeds), aam panna(a green mango drink), Khus sherbet (a sweet beverage made of poppy seeds), rose sherbet (made with rose syrup) are a few to name.
4. Have juicy fruits everyday - Tarbooj(Watermelon), Kharbooja (Muskmelon), Cantaloupes, Narangi(Oranges), Malta and other citrus fruits are good seasonal options.
5. Include watery, light vegetables in your diet- Lauki /dudhi /ghiya (Bottle gourd), Kaddu (Pumpkin), Turai/dodka/beerakaya (Ridge gourd), Kheera (Cucumbers), Kakdi (Another variety of Cucumber), Tomatoes, Onions (raw) etc.
6. Include leafy garnishing for foods and beverages- Dhaniya patti(coriander leaves/cilantro) and pudina (mint leaves) are good potassium sources.
7. Sip water while working out- it prevents dehydration. Drink water before you begin the workout.
8. Eat Bananas (ripe)- they are a good potassium rich option for athletes who might suffer from heat cramps
B) WEAR SUMMER CLOTHING
1. Wear comfortable clothing- this will promotes air circulation and absorbs the sweat. Cotton is a very good option.
2. Cover your head- since the head is particularly sensitive to heat, cover it with a cap, scarf, hat, turban etc.
C) SCHEDULE DAILY TASKS, TAKE ACTIVE MEASURES
1. Avoid going out at midday- middle of the day (around 12 noon to 3 p.m.) the sun is at its brightest and the air has become very hot.
2. Carry a bottle of water- if you have to go out and sip from the water bottle regularly. Lemonade can also be carried along.
3. Apply sunscreen- it protects you from the UV rays of the sun. It can help you from getting a sun burn.
Intake of seasonal foods and vegetables in generous amounts along with adequate amount of water ensures the balance of water and electrolytes in the body apart from supplying with essential nutrients.
So say hello to summers!
PS: Every area has its own traditional ways to cope with summer heat. It would be nice to have your summer heat stroke prevention tips. You can post in recipes too. Looking forward to your comments
Heat stroke and schizophrenia. TN Shrinivasan (Consultant Psychiatrist, Sundaram Medical Foundation, CHENNAI)
2. For the medically inclined
3. More on heat stroke