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Beware of heat stress says Monyamane


Limpho Sello

HEALTH Minister Dr Molotsi Monyamane says Basotho should drink plenty of water to counter the illnesses associated with the ongoing heat wave.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday in Maseru, Dr Monyamane said children, the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS were vulnerable to the rising temperatures.

The dry conditions are a result of the global weather phenomenon El Niño in which waters of the eastern tropical Pacific warm, resulting in dramatic changes to the atmosphere and altering weather patterns worldwide.

Under El Niño, parts of South America experience heavy rainfall, while drought-like conditions prevail in Australia, south-east Asia and southern Africa.

“When there is a drought, it becomes very hot which increases the vulnerability to various ailments. That is why we found it important to educate the public on how they can stay healthy in the heat,” Dr Monyamane said.

The minister noted that heat stress could cause significant medical issues when the body is unable to cool itself and maintain a healthy temperature.

“Normally, the body cools itself by sweating, but sometimes sweating isn’t enough and the body temperature keeps on rising,” he said.

“Heat-related illnesses can range from mild conditions such as rash or cramps to very serious ailments such as heat stroke which can kill.
“Over exertion in hot weather, poorly ventilated or confined areas can increase the risk of heat stress. Heat can also make an existing medical condition worse, for example heart disease.”

People with heart disease, high blood pressure, lung diseases and on medication for mental illness were also likely to suffer from heat related illnesses.

Dr Monyamane said while everyone was vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, they were more prevalent among people over 65 years of age, babies and young children as well as pregnant and nursing mothers.

To stem the effects of heat stress, he said people should drink more clean water regardless of their level of activity.

Dr Monyamane said people should not wait until they were thirsty to drink water or other cool, non-alcoholic, fluids to ensure they are always hydrated.

“Avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks that contain a lot of sugar. Also don’t have extremely cold liquids, as they may cause stomach cramps,” Dr Monyamane said.

“People must avoid exposure to heat by staying out of the sun as much as possible. If they have to be outdoors, they must remember to protect themselves from the sun by covering exposed skin with lightweight clothes, using sunscreen and wearing a hat and sunglasses.”

He added: “They must also limit physical activity because too much exertion on a hot day can lead to heat stress. If you can, restrict activity to cooler times of the day.”

He added that recognising the signs and symptoms of heat-related emergencies could prevent a tragic outcome. The symptoms include extremely high body temperatures; hot dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion and unconsciousness.

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