DEALING WITH THE HEAT (facts and tips on managing excess heat conditions in Nigeria
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Few organisms can survive extreme temperature conditions and they are perhaps fictional superhero characters living in the dark realms of the Art Illustrator’s imagination. Yet frankly, can you actually imagine a situation where normal life on earth is living in subzero temperature or near a hundred degree Celsius. Scary, right?
To say since these past months (starting from later parts of 2018), the country has been experiencing unprecedented warm ambience will be a huge understatement. Similar situation has plagued other parts of the world. In fact, report from popular media channels hinted that temperature peaked at an all-time high (around 48 degree Celsius) resulting in natural disasters as wild fires, health complications and increased death toll not to mention increased financial burden to individuals and the government. Let me quickly add that it is not all bad news as certain fruit crops actually depends on the hot, dry weather for maturation, so its good news for these farmers.
As crucial as term – temperature is to human activity, we’d fare well from living within the optimum range – anything below and above might threaten our survival as a species.
The right temperature is vital for normal biological functions I’ll broadly categorized as metabolic processes in the body. Can you recall the acronym M.R. N.I.G.E.R. D? In fact, some science-based scholars have claimed that humans and other advanced mammals are less susceptible to many microbial infection (notably fungal species) compared to many reptiles due to our unique body temperature.
In the process of living our normal lives, the metabolic processes of our bodies generate heat and this is in addition to the heat generated from environmental activities like irradiation from the sun, combustion of fossil fuel etc.
Presently, the world is experiencing incredulously high temperatures notably due to the greenhouse effect – a phenomenon describing the warming of the surface and lower atmosphere of a planet due to conversion of radiation from the sun into heat.
In Nigeria and many sub-Saharan countries, the Harmattan is expected to bring in hot dry weather yet one thing is evidently missing – the intermittent coolness of the wind that characterizes the harmattan. The heat wave is here and its monstrous presence is evidently suffocating bringing a lot of discomfiture all day long especially at night.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure of electricity which could have served to ameliorate the effect of the suffocating heat wave is still far from adequate.
Each government regime keeps making promises to do better while the deleterious effects of the heat waves sweeps on, through the urban centres unforgivingly. God help us – particularly those living in zones faced with additional poor housing infrastructure and population explosion.
Moreover, there are also public health concerns as there are not enough heath centres to manage cases of heat – related illnesses or health workers to educate the general public on how to cope with the natural temperature rise.
In spite of these vastly economic factors, one of the advantages of being born and bred in the tropics known for their usual elevated temperature is that naturally, our bodies are well-adapted to the hot environment thanks to the naturally efficient heat – controlling mechanisms of our bodies.
Even with this natural superhero capabilities, we are also not immune to adverse effects from heat-related illnesses. One of such medical condition is known as HEAT STROKE.
So with the intimidating wave of heat slowly slithering through the steady-polluted city landscape, it is not uncommon to hear people complain of cramps in their body extremities; headache; dizziness, clumsiness; restlessness and confusion (or delirium); hot, flushed, and dry skin; difficulty in breathing; convulsion; coma among others.
Do you reside in the tropics? Have you experienced the any effects of the heat wave yet?
Heat stroke is sometimes associated with names like sunstroke, heat apnea. It is a medical condition resulting from rapid increase in body temperature above forty-degree Celsius.
Naturally, the human body system is designed to function at a temperature of between 36-degree Celsius and 37.5-degree Celsius (96.8-degree Fahrenheit and 99.5-degree Fahrenheit). This temperature range is kept constantly within these limits by a heat-regulating mechanism in the brain (precisely, the hypothalamus).
Occasionally, our body temperature can rise or fall to a level wherein this mechanism can no longer effectively regulate the temperature, resulting in the following conditions including hypothermia (too low body temperature) or hyperthermia as in the case of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
It is important to note here that although heat (or temperature elevation) is involved, it is possible to suffer from heat exhaustion which is different from heat stroke, although heat exhaustion could lead to heat stroke. In many cases, heatstroke follows heat exhaustion when sweating ceases and the body cannot be cooled by the evaporation of sweat. You can get more information on heat exhaustion here.
In the hottest parts of the year, the heat wave could lead to increased risk to heat-induced illnesses (like heat exhaustion, heat cramp, heat stroke) causing high incidences of ailments (most notably, neurological complications) and death.
Causes of heat stroke?
One thing, you need to know – Heat related illnesses can strike anyone. The United Nations gazette on Climate Change have highlighted that chronic alcoholics, the elderly, the young, the obese and individuals with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of being affected.
The risk of have heat-induced illnesses is also heightened in individuals taking certain drugs such as antihistamines, antipsychotic medications and cocaine. High humidity can also increase the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, your body’s way of cooling itself.
It is also important to note that those who have certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat – such as scleroderma or cystic fibrosis – may be at greater risk of developing heat stroke.
Also, certain occupations that expose persons to hot or humid environments such as manufacturing plants, bakeries or construction sites increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.
With respect to heat stroke, physical activities such as vigorous exercise and overexposure to heat (in the context of global warming) have both implicated as major causes of the condition.
Diagnosis: what do the medics tell us?
The basis for the diagnosis depends on an history of exposure to sunlight or strenuous exercise, increase in body temperature above 40 ° C and injury to the central nervous system (CNS).
All patients are known to experience tachycardia (increased heart activity whether physiological i.e. after exercise or due to pathological causes) and hyperventilation. The incidence of hypotension to average 25% of classic HS.
The extent of the toxic effect of heat is far-reaching affecting the gastrointestinal, hormonal and circulatory systems, the heart, lungs, kidney, liver. The heat stress also adversely affects the body immunity.
Tips for managing heat stroke: what can be done?
The management of heat stroke is targeted at cooling the body in the shortest possible time (within 30-60 minutes into heat stroke or when diagnosis is made) and that depends on the level of the involvement of the vital organs.
By reducing excessive exposure to high temperatures and taking other precautionary steps, most heat related illnesses can be avoided.
(1) Quickly move the casualty to a cool place. Remove as much of his outer clothing as possible. Call medical help immediately.
(2) While waiting for emergency help, assist the casualty to sit down, supported with cushions. The best way to cool the casualty is to spray him with water and then fan him, repeatedly. A cold, wet sheet may also work, and ice packs in the armpits and groin may be affective.
(3) Once the casualty’s temperature appears to have returned to normal, replace the wet sheet with a dry one.
(4) Monitor and record vital signs—level of response, breathing, pulse, and temperature—while waiting for help. If the casualty’s temperature rises again, repeat the cooling process.
I hope this information was useful. Protect yourself…Protect the Earth. Share the message.
Author: Adedoyin Shobo
Categories: Featured Articles