How To Stay Safe In A Heat Wave

It’s been so hot across Nigeria lately, one could probably fry an egg on car bonnets!

What we are currently experiencing is a heatwave, i.e. an extended period of high temperatures and high humidity. In these conditions, your body has to work very hard to maintain a normal temperature and this can get dangerous quickly.

The main risks posed by a heat wave are:

  • Dehydration (losing too much water)
  • Heat exhaustion or overheating; yes, this happens to human beings too
  • Heatstroke usually results from the above and requires emergency treatment

Symptoms can include

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Who is most at risk?

The heat can affect anyone, but some people run a greater risk of serious harm:

  • Older people, especially those over 75
  • Babies and young children
  • People with heart or breathing problems
  • People with mobility problems like those with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke
  • People with serious mental health illnesses
  • Those on certain medications that affect sweating and temperature control
  • People who misuse alcohol or drugs
  • People who are physically active e.g. soldiers, labourers or athletes
  • Homeless people.

Tips for coping in a heat wave

  • It seems counterintuitive but close your windows when it is hot outside
  • You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler, at night perhaps
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool
  • Don’t go out between 11 am and 3 pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re more vulnerable
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or light-coloured curtains (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter)
  • Small closed spaces, such as cars can get dangerously hot very quickly so avoid closed spaces
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water
  • Drink plenty of fluids like water, low-fat milk, tea and coffee, then avoid excess alcohol
  • Limit fruit juice or smoothies to a combined total of 150ml a day, and choose sugar-free drinks
  • Avoid high-intensity physical exertion, if you can’t avoid it then do it during a cooler part of the day – for example in the early morning or evening
  • Wear loose, cool clothing. Use a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
  • Look out for children because they are particularly at risk of skin damage from the sun.
  • Chronic illnesses can get worse in hot weather so be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illnesses.


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