Staying healthy during the UAE’s summer months
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Staying healthy during the UAE’s summer months

With the summer heat in the UAE expected to reach a sweltering 50 degrees Celsius over the next few days, being outdoors for prolonged periods of time without protection can pose serious health hazards.

Heat exposure related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke are a very serious concern in the UAE, and in recognition of this the Dubai Municipality has taken initiatives to raise awareness on the consequences of heat-related disorders. In their current ‘Safe and Healthy Summer Campaign’, the Dubai Municipality has published some basic guidelines on heat-related illness, e.g. signs and symptoms, as well as precautionary measures to stay safe and healthy during the summer months.

If you’re in the UAE during the summer months, here are the main heat-related illnesses to look out for, as well as several key tips on how to stay protected and healthy.

Heat cramps

Thought to be caused by a deficiency in electrolytes, heat cramps are painful muscle cramps and involuntary spasms, usually in the legs, chest, or abdomen, caused by overexertion in a hot environment (e.g. a long running session outdoors). It’s common for cramping to be delayed and to occur a few hours later.

Those most at risk of suffering from heat cramps include:

  • The elderly
  • Young children
  • Infants
  • Those working outdoors for long periods of time, e.g. blue-collar workers, who sometimes work more than six hours straight under the scorching heat
  • Those taking certain medications

As the mildest form of heat exposure, heat cramps can be treated by drinking lots of fluids or by being rehydrated intravenously. That said, heat cramps can also be the first sign of a more serious heat exposure related illness, e.g. heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps, and is caused when the body is unable to maintain a normal core temperature, resulting in the body overheating.

Certain factors that can increase the risk of developing heat exhaustion include:

  • Strenuous physical activity (e.g. work or exercise) in a hot environment
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Dehydration
  • Wearing tight/ heavy clothing

Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea/ Vomiting
  • Fainting

Heat exhaustion is treatable, and involves removing the person from heat exposure, cooling the body, and rehydration. However, if left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to more severe conditions like heat stroke.

Heat stroke

As the most severe and life-threatening type of heat-related illness, heat stroke is a medical emergency, and is caused by a failure of the body’s cooling mechanisms (e.g. sweating). This results in a very high core body temperature of above 40 degrees Celsius in adults, and above 40.5 degrees Celsius in children; and is accompanied by a change in mental state and behaviour.

Those that are at a greater risk of developing heat stroke include:

  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly
  • Young children
  • Those taking certain medications with dehydrating side effects (e.g. increased urination)

If you experience any of the below heat stroke symptoms, it’s important that you seek emergency medical attention straight away, as heat stroke can be life threatening:

  • A very high body temperature of above 40 degrees Celsius
  • Red, hot, dry skin (with no sweating)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Altered mental behaviour (e.g. confusion)

The longer someone with heatstroke delays medical treatment, the higher the chances are for further complications to develop; complications can include: seizures, organ damage, coma, fetal harm in pregnant women, and even death. Heat stroke can however be treated if the body receives treatment straight away.

The treatment of heat stroke centers on immediate cooling of the body to its normal temperature to prevent or reduce damage to your brain and essential organs. This includes immersing the body in a bath of cold or ice water, using evaporation cooling techniques, and wrapping you in cooling blankets or placing ice packs on your body.

Tips for staying healthy during hot weather

Great news! All the above illnesses can be prevented, provided that you take the extra precautions necessary to avoid becoming ill when you’re out in the heat. Below are a few key tips that will help you stay healthy when you’re out during the summer heat:

Avoid becoming dehydrated

This should be an obvious one, but it can be easy to forget about the amount of liquids we actually need to drink when we’re out and about. The amount we will need to drink will vary for each person based on their age, gender, and activity levels. Generally speaking, men should drink roughly 13 cups a day, and women should drink about 9 cups a day. You may also want to consider drinking electrolytes, as they’re great for replacing lost fluid while exercising. Additionally, try to avoid alcoholic beverages as they can cause dehydration.

Avoid spending too much time outdoors

If possible, try to avoid spending too much time outdoors when it’s particularly scorching. When exercising outdoors, try to do so during the early morning or in the evening, and stay in well-shaded areas as much as possible.

Avoid sunburn

Sunburns are known to reduce the body’s ability to rid itself of heat. As such, wear proper sun protection when outdoors, e.g. apply sunscreen to exposed areas, wear an umbrella or hat with a wide brim, and loose clothing that covers the skin.

Make sure you have a comprehensive health insurance plan

While this doesn’t directly make you healthier, having a comprehensive health insurance plan in place for your whole family will ensure that should you and your family have a heat-related illness, you will get the treatment you need without breaking the bank.

If you have any questions about health insurance in the UAE, be sure to get in touch with the experienced advisors at UAE Medical Insurance today.


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