A woman attempts to protect herself from the blazing sun in Bur Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: As the mercury soars and humidity reaches 99 per cent with very little cloud cover over the UAE, increasing cases of respiratory infections, breathlessness, eye infections, skin allergies and heat stroke are being reported.

How do heat and humidity impact us?

Dr Khaldoun Tabbah, specialist pulmonologist at RAK Hospital, explains, “While outside temperatures reach 48.5 degree Celsius and humidity goes beyond 95 per cent, the temperature indoors is usually kept at 16-17C. This difference in temperatures impacts our bodies as the body’s internal thermostat is not able to deal with such drastic change. Besides, extremely fine dust particles that are suspended in the atmosphere enter our system. Dust contains fungi spores or even microbes, and heat and humidity exacerbate the problem.”

Dr Tabbah said the hospital registers a high turnout of patients with respiratory disorders during summer. He added: “In such weather, people who are already susceptible to respiratory infections — children below two years, pregnant women, people with history of asthma, diabetes and those above 65 years — often fall prey to respiratory disorders.”

Dust particles trigger respiratory allergies and humidity makes it difficult to breathe. People get psychologically stressed with heavy breathing and this in turn impacts the heart, blood circulation and causes more complications, said Dr Tabbah.

To avoid respiratory infections, Dr Tabbah advised the following:

1. Full compliance to respiratory medication. People who have breathing difficulties and are on medication must make it a point to have their full medication as they are at high risk.

2. Indoor temperature must not go below 23C and if you are planning to step out, switch off the AC at least 10 minutes earlier to allow the body to acclimatise to the higher temperatures outside. Moving from too cold to too warm immediately is not advisable.

3. For those with asthma or breathing difficulties, wearing a medical mask outdoors is advised.

4. Those with a history of asthma or breathing difficulties are also advised to keep their SOS medication such as inhalers handy.

5. Keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day.

6. Avoid processed and fast foods as they lower the body’s natural immune response to infection. Increase intake of fresh fruit and vegetables as they boosts natural immunity.

7. Pregnant women, children below the age of two and senior citizens are advised to take a flu shot.

Heat stroke

Dr Dirar Abdullah, specialist internal medicine at the Prime Hospital, asks residents to take basic precautions to avoid heat stroke. “People who work outdoors, pregnant women, infants and children below two years of age, patients with a history of diabetes and people above 60 years of age are at a higher risk of heat stroke.”

Dr Abdullah added that when the internal body temperature reaches above 40C is when people experience the usual symptoms of dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain and disorientation. “But these are the basic symptoms. Heat stroke, if let unattended, can be a very serious condition leading to coma and even death. When internal body temperature rises above 40C or 106F, it affects the flow of blood to the organs as there is coagulation of blood owing to a drop in blood pressure. The kidneys produce very dark yellow urine indicating severe dehydration which can lead to kidney failure. Palpitation and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) set in and the brain can go into coma eventually.”

The first step in winning any battle of sickness is educating patients on the side-effects of heat stroke. “Once there is awareness, they will take care to keep themselves hydrated, wear loose and light-coloured clothing, use a hat or umbrella while stepping out in the sun and if working outdoors, take care to work in the shade.

These preventive steps will go a long way in minimising their chances of a stroke,” he said.