Dubai: With temperatures soaring into the high 40s and sometimes even nearing 50°Celsius, residents in the UAE must take precautions to avoid subjecting their bodies to extreme heat, experts said.
Living in high temperatures of over 40°C and humidity levels can be detrimental to one’s health, shows research.
Dr Fiona Rennie, consultant, Family Medicine at Valiant Clinic, explained that in extreme heat, the body starts to struggle to cool itself down, which can then lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke.
“At 50 degrees Celsius, you should avoid being in the sun at all. If it’s not possible to stay indoors, then avoid being in the sun for three hours before and three hours after solar noon,” she advised.
The body works best within a narrow range of body temperatures — 36 to 37.5 degrees Celsius — and sheds excess heat by sweating.
Dr Rennie explained that any factor that reduces the effectiveness of sweating makes it harder for the body to regulate its temperature, and heat-related illness occurs when the body can’t cool itself down by sweating.
Some people may experience symptoms of heat exhaustion including dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating and a slightly raised body exhaustion.
Others may suffer from a heatstroke as their body cannot control its temperature and is in a state of confusion. They may have a rapid heartbeat, high body temperature, headache, seizures and hot dry skin or heavy sweating, said Dr Rennie.
If a person starts to experience any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, she said, it is essential they find a cool environment with air-conditioning in order to artificially reduce the body’s temperature.
“With heat exhaustion, taking rest and drinking fluids is important. However, heatstroke, which can occur at any temperature over 40C, requires professional medical help and, immediate treatment,” said Dr Rennie.
The body’s reaction also depends on whether an individual falls into one of the vulnerable categories.
“Older people, babies, young children and pregnant women are all more susceptible to extremes in heat as are those with chronic conditions such as heart or breathing problems.”
What happens to the body at 40°C+
Looking back to the European heatwave of 2003 — the hottest summer since the 1500s — it was estimated to have caused the deaths of more than 70,000 people across the continent.
Meanwhile, up to 10,000 deaths were said to have been caused by the hot summer of 1988 in the US.
“Heat can be a killer. If the body heats up to 39-40 degrees Celsius, the brain tells the muscles to slow down and fatigue sets in.
At 40-41 degrees Celsius, heat exhaustion is likely — and any temperature above 41 degrees Celsius causes the body to shut down,” explained Dr Rennie.
She highlighted that chemical processes start to be affected, the cells inside the body deteriorate and there is a risk of multiple organ failures.
“The body cannot even sweat at this point because blood flow to the skin stops, making it feel cold and clammy. Without immediate medical attention, there can be permanent damage to vital organs and even death,” she added.
Residents are recommended to avoid the hot sun as much as possible, while ensuring they keep hydrated. In the case of having to be outdoors, it is vital to wear loose clothing, a strong sunscreen, and take breaks in a shaded area to avoid the possibility of a heatstroke.
What to do when temperatures cross 50°C
Avoid being in the sun at all
If it’s not possible to stay indoors, then avoid being in the sun for 3 hours before and 3 hours after solar noon
If you are in the sun, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30+
Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton. Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing
Stay in the shade where possible, use a sun shade or umbrella
If you are outside for extended periods of time, drink water frequently — every couple of hours, and at least 2 litres
If you are working outside, take regular breaks, get regular sleep and add a little extra salt to your meals
Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar
Monitor your personal condition and anyone that is outside with you for symptoms that may indicate heat exhaustion or heatstroke
What is the ideal temperature for human beings to live in?
The body temperature needs to be maintained at 37 degree Celsius
The World Health Organisation says the optimum air temperature for the body is between 18C and 24C. Any hotter and the risks rise
Studies have shown that office productivity is best at temperatures between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius