As the sweltering weather persists, leaving the body parched during the day and sweaty at night, Nigerians have been advised to consume lots of cool water or fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
In addition, medical experts said it is imperative that people avoid being outdoors during midday when the sun is at its peak. Work and exercise should also be undertaken in moderation and for short periods.
All this is to ensure that the body is enabled to retain enough fluid to perform optimally and stay hydrated. This is necessary for everyone’s well-being.
A Family Physician, Dr. Chuks Ogunbor, said people, whose work entails working outside, should take frequent breaks in a cool or shaded area throughout the day. There is also a need to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing.
He said: “Additionally, people should wear a hat and sunglasses, just as it is important to wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) to protect the skin from sunburn. There are some heat-relief activities people can do at home to help keep their cool.
“They should keep water in a spray bottle for a refreshing spritzer. Keep this in the fridge for an extra refresh. People should freeze water in a cup or bottle (for portability) to enjoy the melting, ice-cold water and add fruit to their water for some flavour. Keep the room cooler by keeping the curtains drawn and using a no-bake recipe book. For a nice cool draft, they should put ice in a shallow pan in front of a fan to sit and enjoy. And if you know your region will be experiencing a heatwave, take some additional precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of others.”
Ogunbor listed what people should do to stay cool during hot weather to include drinking plenty of cool fluids, which is the most important step to take when preventing heat emergency. Also, knowing the humidex rating, which combines the temperature and humidity to indicate how hot the weather feels to the average person, can be helpful.
“The reason for wearing light, loose clothing is to enable air to circulate and the heat escape,” he explained. “People should also slow down their activities, as the day gets hotter. Do not work, exercise, or play outside for an extended period of time. But if you must work outdoors, then take frequent breaks to let your body cool off. Avoid caffeine and alcohol because they can cause dehydration, which stops your body from controlling its temperature properly.
“Watch for symptoms of heat illness, such as dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine, changes of behaviour in children. If you are unclear if heat illness is occurring, or if you have any symptoms of heat illness during extreme heat, move to a cool place and drink water. But if the symptoms don’t improve, then see a doctor.”
“Check on family, friends and neighbours who do not have air conditioning system, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat. These include vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours that may require assistance. Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.”
Ogunbor said what to do during hot weather include opening windows and blinds to allow fresh air to circulate through the home. He explained that people should be fully prepared by taking a Nigerian Red Cross First Aid course to learn the signs, symptoms and treatment of heat-related illnesses.
“Most of us welcome hot weather, but when it’s too hot for too long, there are health risks,” he said. “In Nigeria, there is an average 2000 heat-related deaths every year. If hot weather hits this summer, make sure it does not harm you or anyone you know.
“The main risks posed by not drinking enough water in hot weather is dehydration. There is also overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”
On who is most at risk of being affected by hot weather, he said: “Hot weather can affect anyone. But the most vulnerable people include older people, especially those over 70 years; those living on their own or in a care home; people who have a serious or long-term illness, including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson disease or some mental health conditions; those who may find it hard to keep cool; babies and the very young, the bed-bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Joel Logbo, Lagos State College of Health Technology (LASCOHET), Yaba, explained that people who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places, those who live in top floor apartments, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside needed to be conscious of what to do during a heatwave, not just for themselves, but particularly for friends, the elderly and loved ones.
He said: “During hot weather months, there are plenty of activities one can to do to keep the body cool. These include swimming, boating, or perhaps just enjoying refreshing cold drinks. Under the high sun, outdoor activities can lead to heat-related emergencies, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Children, the elderly and those with certain health conditions are particularly susceptible. So, check on friends and family members who may be isolated or unaware they are at risk.
“Those with underlying health conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk. Stay cool indoors. Many of us will need to stay safe at home this summer. So, we need to know how to keep our homes cool.”
Logbo explained that people, whose rooms face the sun; need to keep the curtains shut and the indoor spaces cooler.
“And remember, it may be cooler outdoors than indoors,” he said. “If going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately. Keep your distance in line with social distancing guidelines, follow the Coronavirus social distancing guidance and wash your hands regularly.
“Also, drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol. Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants and young children. Try to keep out of the sun between 11 am and 3 pm. Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide-brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the sun. Avoid exercising during the hottest time of the day. Make sure you take water with you to drink regularly and be hydrated. If you are travelling, if you are going into open water to cool down, take care and follow local safety advice.
“Public health centres have more tips on how to beat the hot weather. So, if you have concerns about an uncomfortably hot house that is affecting your health or someone else’s, get medical advice. You can also get help from the environmental health office at your local authority. They can inspect a home for hazards to health, including excess heat.
If you or someone else feels unwell with a high temperature during hot weather, it may be heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”