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24 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Some effects of global warming on health

Urgent instructions must be delivered by the government in public interest, to wear wide brimmed hats, light coloured cotton clothes, use umbrellas and drink plenty of fluid to combat the effects of this punishing summer.
Dr Wrishi Raphael
Some effects of global warming on health

The cataclysmic effects of climate change on our health and well being cannot be ignored any more. This summer has already claimed the lives of more then 3000 people in India leaving thousands more ill or needing urgent treatment. Not only is hyperthermia (body temperature in excess of 41.1 C or 106 F) a cause for concern, other problems attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, water or soil pollution are rattling our medical infrastructure with shockwaves of respiratory, gastrointestinal, kidney and other systemic diseases. What makes hyperpyrexia and heat strokes formidable is that old people and children are the ones who are easily affected and the symptoms mimic those of acute infections, food, drug or chemical poisoning. Day labourers and farmers must always carry the brunt of this blistering heat as their work does not allow them the luxury of paid sick leaves or working in the comfort of air-conditioned rooms. Urgent instructions must be delivered by the government in public interest, to wear wide brimmed hats, light coloured cotton clothes, use umbrellas and drink plenty of fluid to combat the effects of this punishing summer.    

Heat stroke becomes a risk factor in countries like India and Bangladesh where high temperatures, especially when combined with high relative humidity, persist for several days. Higher temperatures are also the most influenced by human behaviour: the fewer heat-trapping emissions we release into the atmosphere, the cooler we can keep our planet. Although progress is steady to reach international consensus about lowering factory emissions of green house gases, the light at the end of the tunnel is very bleak. If carbon emissions are not reduced significantly; by the year 2040 the chances of experiencing heat waves like the current ones will increase by 12 %. Not only will the inherent cooling mechanisms of our body fail to keep us safe and alive during such harsh summers, the impacts on food production and farming will be catastrophic.    

The human skin is capable of heat loss by sweating at remarkably high temperatures provided the humidity is not high. But if high temperature is accompanied by high humidity the body’s heat regulatory mechanisms begin to collapse causing heat strokes or hyperthermia. To calculate the limits in which it is safe for normal people to work in extreme heat, scientists use a special thermometer which takes into account the humidity and actual temperature of any particular time period. This is called the wet-bulb globe temperature. At wet bulb temperature higher then 35C the body becomes incapable of cooling down on its own and a person will suffer collapse or shock. The US army suspends training if wet bulb temperature reading reaches 32C. It is high time that we started adopting such technology and coming up with more pragmatic solutions to protect our poor and aged.

Hyperthermia is a critical condition which requires immediate resuscitation but its treatment is simple and requires promptness by part of caregivers. Heat strokes can occur at 104 F and is characterized by hot, dry, flushed skin with a rapid pulse. If the patient seems confused, disoriented or his mental state is altered; shock can become an inevitability. General Practitioners or Emergency Medicine Physicians cannot be complacent if blood pressure is normal or near normal as shock and hypotension (BP lower then 90/60 mm of Hg) can result in a very short time.

Although treatment with saline may not be necessary, cooling down is vital and requires diligent efforts by part of medical personnel if shock and hypotension is to be avoided.

Treatment of heat strokes is simple and the condition is completely reversible in most cases provided the care providers or medical teams help the patient quickly and effectively.  

Immediate effective cooling water applied to skin

Icepacks at critical points (e.g. axillae, neck, head)

Ice water bath if possible

Aim should be to bring down temperature by 1°C (every 10 minutes). (Reprint)

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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