As the temperature rises, so does the risk of heat stress, a condition which if not treated properly can lead to short and long term health issues, minor and major.
"Sweating cools our bodies. But sometimes, when the temperature is really high, it isn't enough to cool," says Vikramjeet Singh, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Dwarka. "This can lead to several health issues - from a simple rash or cramp to serious heat stroke. Heat stress occurs when our body is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature."
Dr Rommel Tickoo, associate director, Internal Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, says the most affected are outdoor workers and those who work in hot environments such as firefighters, bakers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room and factory workers. "Heat can also increase the risk of injuries result in sweaty palms and dizziness. Burns may also occur as a result of accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam. Also, those over 65 years of age, overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, are more at risk."
Besides dehydration, a person exposed to high summer temperatures can also be affected with a "rapid pulse, heavy sweating, headaches, fatigue, dark coloured urine, " says Dr Meghna Bazaz, associate consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Shalimar Bagh. "Heat cramp manifests as nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness due to electrolyte loss. Heat strokes [can cause] a confused state, irritability, seizure and [sometimes] coma. There are three types of heat related illness, classified as heat cramp, heat exhaustion, heat stroke - which is the most severe. Infants, young children and elderly are more at risk."
Dr Altaf Patel, Director of Medicine at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre adds conjunctivitis, flaring of allergies and gastroenteritis to the list of conditions he's treated due to summer heat, especially when people eat and drink from street stalls.
Yes, that glass of freshly squeezed juice does look inviting and refreshing, but one should also remember that food items tend to spoil faster in the outdoor heat outside. So carry homemade drinks, such as chhaach or sherbet and juices.
"One can make buttermilk with mint and cumin powder and keep it in the fridge. This chilled beverage makes it a good drink to beat the heat," says Delnaaz T. Chanduwadia, chief dietitian & HoD Dietetics Department, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.
"You can also squeeze ginger juice in a bottle and add to lime juice along with some muddled mint leaves. A refreshing drink with lime, mint and sabja can be had too. Jeera [cumin] or saunf [fennel] water is also helpful. Steep it in water and boil with double the quantity of water and reduce to half. Drink after cooling."
That's cooling yourself from the inside out. But a cold shower always helps bring down the temperature too, as does wearing loose and light coloured clothing. Tickoo also advises eating small meals frequently rather than one big meal. "Sandalwood is a great cooler. It is also available as soaps or powders. Applying or rubbing it regularly on the body has a cooling effect. Ayurvedic beliefs use this as a constant source of cooling down the body," he adds.