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Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke Due to Heatwave in Malaysia

08 March 2024 · 4 mins read

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Learn about ways to prevent and manage heat exhaustion and heatstroke during the hot weather season in Malaysia.

Heatwave in Malaysia

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), Malaysia’s hot and dry season has started earlier compared to the past two years due to the ongoing El Nino phenomenon. High-temperature notices have been issued across many states throughout Malaysia.

MetMalaysia issues the heatwave level based on the indication in the table below:

Level

Category

Range of maximum daily temperature

Normal

Normal

Below 35oC

Level 1

Alert

Between 35oC to 37oC for at least three consecutive days

Level 2

Heatwave

Between 37oC to 40oC for at least three consecutive days

Level 3

Extreme heatwave

Above 40oC for at least three consecutive days

Source: MetMalaysia

In this article, we will delve deeper into the topic of hot weather and explore preventive measures to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which is the most severe form of heat-related illness and is considered a medical emergency. We will also dispel some myths that may be circulating on the internet.

Implication of Extreme Hot Weather on Health

High temperatures can pose significant health risks. Vulnerable populations such as the elderly, young children, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who are not acclimatised to hot weather are at a higher risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

Heat-related illnesses are due to exposure to abnormal or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity without relief or adequate fluid intake. Heat-related illnesses usually start with heat cramps, followed by heat exhaustion, and if left untreated, it may lead to potentially fatal heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. When the body's core temperature rises to dangerously high levels and its natural cooling mechanisms, like sweating, fail to regulate temperature, it can lead to heatstroke. This can result in damage to vital organs and even be fatal if not treated promptly.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Cold, pale, clammy skin
  • Rapid, weak pulse

Heatstroke

  • Body temperature of 40oC or higher
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Losing consciousness
  • Skin feels hot and dry to the touch, flushed skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse

Risk Factors of Developing Heat Exhaustion

  • Infants, children, and older adults are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to their reduced ability to regulate body temperature.
  • Engaging in strenuous physical activity, particularly in hot weather, can increase the risk of heat exhaustion as it raises the body's core temperature.
  • Certain underlying chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, can increase the risk of heat exhaustion. The same is true for being obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, and having a history of heat exhaustion.

Tips to Prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

  • Drink plenty of fluids so that your body can sweat to maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Wear clothes of lighter colour, lightweight, loose-fitting to help your body to cool down properly during hot weather.
  • Schedule physical activities during cooler times, such as early morning or evening. If you cannot avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, remember to drink plenty of water and take breaks in a cooler place.
  • Help young children or older people to stay away from the hot environment. Act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating that may lead to heatstroke.
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 or more when you are out and about. Reapply sunscreen more often, such as every two hours if you are swimming or sweating, to prevent sunburn.
  • It is unsafe to stay in the car when it is parked under the sun or in hot weather. Do not leave anyone in a parked vehicle.

Debunking Internet Myths

  • Myth: Refrain from drinking icy water.

    Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that drinking icy water in hot temperatures leads to blood vessel rupture or bursting.

  • Myth: Taking a cold shower while sweating may lead to unconsciousness.

    Fact: There is no evidence to support the claim that taking a cold shower immediately after sweating can lead to sudden unconsciousness and fainting.

  • Myth: Drinking warm or hot water is better during hot days.

    Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that drinking warm or hot water is better than cold water during hot days.

It is essential to rely on credible sources backed by scientific evidence regarding health-related information. Personal opinions or anecdotes without proper scientific basis can be misleading and potentially harmful. When in doubt, consulting reputable health organisations or professionals is always a good practice.

Book an Appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

Act quickly if you or someone else shows signs of distress, such as dizziness, nausea, or rapid heartbeat. Seek immediate medical attention at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital. 

References

  1. Heat Wave Status. Available at https://www.met.gov.my/en/iklim/status-cuaca-panas/ [Accessed on 1 March 2024]
  2. Extreme Heat. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html [Accessed on 1 March 2024]
  3. Heat and Health. Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-heat-and-health [Accessed on 1 March 2024]
  4. Heat Stroke and Your Health. Available at https://spm.um.edu.my/2023/05/11/heat-stroke-and-your-health/ [Accessed on 1 March 2024]
  5. Heatwave: how to cope in hot weather. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/seasonal-health/heatwave-how-to-cope-in-hot-weather/ [Accessed on 1 March 2024]
  6. Heat Stress – Heat Related Illness. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatrelillness.html [Accessed on 1 March 2024]

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