Dubai: As temperatures cross 50 degrees Celsius in the UAE, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) is out to raise awareness about heat exhaustion prevention, even as doctors explain the risks associated with over-exposure to the sun.
MOHAP on Monday launched the campaign themed “Your safety is our goal” in Sharjah. It aims to bolster health awareness about the risks associated with extreme heat among members of society and promote preventive measures within community groups who are most exposed to sunlight.
Scheduled to run throughout summer, the campaign involves field tours to construction sites and awareness lectures to various segments of society, covering people of all nationalities. It aims to promote correct behaviour, enhance understanding of heat exhaustion health risks and emphasise the importance of maintaining a safe work environment.
To further support the campaign’s objectives, an accompanying medical team will provide assistance and supplies to the targeted groups at their workplaces, where they will be introduced to the risks of heat exhaustion, its symptoms, preventive measures and first aid procedures.
Workers will also receive awareness booklets in Arabic, English, and Urdu, personal hygiene kits, and fire prevention supplies, as well as access to medical examinations such as blood pressure and blood sugar level checks and oral and dental health detection tests.
Risks, preventive measures
Explaining the dangers of heat exhaustion, Dr. Aisam Raoof Mattar, specialist, internal medicine, at Aster Clinic, Tecom Dubai, told Gulf News: “The biggest risk associated with heat exhaustion is that we lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes which can cause fatigue and lead to a heat stroke.”
The early symptoms can include headache and muscle spasms. “Your throat will go dry and you can have a high temperature.”
Dr Mattar said people with chronic conditions will experience more fatigue.
“If you are under medication, your BP and heart rate could go up. If you experience these symptoms or feel dizzy or disoriented, you should seek medical advice.”
Dr Mattar said the most important preventive measure is to drink two to three litres of water and have additional electrolytes or juices, especially if one works outdoors. “It is a must for those who work outside to have electrolytes or drink fruit juices or coconut water. Those who don’t have access to these can just mix salt and sugar in water and have it.”
Highlighting the need to protect skin during harsh summer conditions, he advised the use of sunscreen and light, bright-coloured clothes. “Carrying an umbrella is also desirable when you walk in the heat,” he added.
Without prompt intervention, heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other vital organs, and even cause death.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion
The most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Prevention of heat exhaustion
Drink lots of fluids at regular intervals
Wear loose-fitting clothing and suitable head cover
Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.
A general recommendation for those doing moderate- to high-intensity exercise is to drink 17 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before exercise and consider adding another eight ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise. Take additional precautions when working or exercising outdoors.
Avoid fluids containing either caffeine or alcohol
Messages such as these will be conveyed to residents, especially those who work outdoors during the awareness campaign in Sharjah.
A joint effort by the ministry’s representative office in Sharjah and Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA)’s Health Promotion Department (HPD), the campaing will include participants from various public and private bodies in the emirate.
Emphasising the significance of MoHAP’s campaign, Mohammed Al Zarouni, director of MoHAP’s Representative Office in Sharjah, said: “The ministry is committed to promoting the values of generosity and goodwill upon which the UAE was built. This year, we will be launching the 12th annual heat exhaustion prevention campaign in collaboration with various governmental, private, and charitable organisations to safeguard community health and safety by increasing health awareness across all sectors, particularly among those whose work involves prolonged exposure to sunlight and educating them on the risks of heat exhaustion.”
Al Zarouni stated: “Community service is a collective responsibility shared by all government and private entities, institutions, and individuals. We are united in our aim to promote happiness across all societal groups and encourage healthy behaviours amongst all members. Hence, we will spare no effort to provide valuable information, guidance, and preventive measures.”
Iman Rashid Saif, director of SCFA’s Health Promotion Department, expressed her happiness at the Department’s participation in the campaigns. “We take immense pride in being part of the UAE, a nation that values human beings as its most precious asset, placing the health and safety of society at the forefront of its development priorities,” Saif said.