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Heat wave triggers health concerns

The heat wave sweeping across the country has resulted in health issues, affecting children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.

An alarming surge in patients suffering from dehydration, asthma, hypertension, fever, and diarrhea due to the extreme heat has been reported by hospitals and private practices.

“The excessive heatwave can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, cardiac collapse, heat stroke, and skin burn,” explained Dr. Md Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury, Associate Professor at the Department of Internal Medicine at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

Dr. Chowdhury stressed that those with co-morbidities such as uncontrolled diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma, skin diseases, people over 60 and children under 10 are the most vulnerable.

He recommended a daily fluid intake of 2 to 2.5 liters and wearing full-sleeved clothing to limit direct sun exposure.

International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) noted an uptick in diarrhoea cases, with daily patients around 500-600, up from last week’s 400-450. On Saturday alone, 578 diarrhoea patients were admitted.

Some 578 diarrhoea patients were admitted to the hospital on Saturday, 532 patients on Friday, 491 patients on Thursday, 553 patients on Wednesday and 549 patients were admitted on Tuesday last.    The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized the societal impacts of heatwaves, including a rise in heat-related deaths. They also highlighted the increasing exposure to heat due to climate change, with extreme temperature events rising in frequency, duration, and magnitude.

Even small deviations from average temperatures are associated with increased illness and death.

Amid the scorching weather, many patients, particularly children, suffer from influenza, cold diseases, and summer diarrhea. Meanwhile, elderly individuals grapple with asthma-related complications.

Sabera Khatun, a resident of Dhaka’s Mirpur area, shared her personal struggles, “My asthma-related complications have worsened due to the excessive hot weather in the last few days.”

Residents across the city including Shantinagar, Mirpur reported children suffering from various health issues such as fever, cough, and cold due to the heat wave. At several hospitals across Dhaka, patients were seen being rushed in with similar health complications.

Prof. Dr. Md. Jahangir Alam, director at Bangladesh Shishu Hospital & Institute noted an influx of patients suffering from fever, diarrhoea, cold and cough. He stressed the importance of keeping children hydrated and indoors to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Advising to keep children hydrated and indoors during the heatwave to avoid heat-related illnesses, he warned that if parents do not keep children away from direct sunlight and keep them inside room during hot weather, as hot weather can affect their health.

To stay safe during a heatwave, the WHO recommended keeping living spaces cool and maintaining the ideal room temperature below 32°C during the day and 24°C during the night, particularly for infants or people who are over 60 years of age or have chronic health conditions.

The WHO also advised opening all windows and shutters during the night and early morning, when the outside temperature is lower (if safe to do so).

Electric fans may provide relief, but when the temperature is above 35°C, they may not prevent heat-related illness. It is important to drink fluids, wear light, loose-fitting clothes made of natural materials, and go outside wearing a wide-brimmed hat or cap and sunglasses.

The WHO also suggested eating small meals more often and avoiding foods that are high in protein.