Posted on August 24, 2018

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is cautioning the public about the importance of protecting children, the elderly, outdoor workers and others who may be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.

Each summer, hundreds of patients are treated at HMC's Emergency Departments and Pediatric Emergency Centers for heat-related illnesses. Between April and November 2017, over 1,000 heat-related illnesses were reported at Hamad General Hospital's Emergency Department, with the largest number of patients seen in late August and early September. "Children are more sensitive to heat and cold stress than adults and are more susceptible to dehydration and heat illnesses. Heat tolerance is directly affected by body size and children have a lower ability to tolerate heat," said Dr Mohamed al Amri, senior consultant, Paediatric Emergency Medicine.

He said children are also at an increased risk of dehydration and overheating because they sweat less and produce more heat when exercising. He added that children may not recognise when they are thirsty or may get distracted and ignore the signs of thirst, not wanting to interrupt their play time. "Parents should limit their child's outdoor playtime and encourage playing under shaded areas. Without precautions, children can develop sunburn, heat rash, heat cramps and heat exhaustion," he said. Dr Amri also warned of the risk of leaving babies and young children unattended in vehicles or other enclosed spaces. 

He said even on a cool day, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to a dangerous level. "Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle. Young children left alone in a vehicle may play with the car's ignition, accidentally stop the engine or lock themselves in. The temperature in a vehicle parked in direct sunlight can quickly rise, placing occupants at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as the gas can come through the air conditioner vents. A child left in a hot car is at risk of dehydration, heatstroke and even death," said Dr Amri.

According to him, knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses are important in their prevention. He said these can range from blisters on the skin, in the case of sunburn, to a headache and loss of consciousness in cases of heat exhaustion. Dr Hanadi al Hamad, chairperson of HMC's Department of Geriatrics and Long Term Care, said the elderly are also vulnerable to high temperatures and heat-related illness. She said older people may have diminished sensations, especially those who have dementia or diabetes and may not be aware they are thirsty or hot. She urged relatives, friends or neighbours of elderly individuals to be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 

Dr Hamad said,"The elderly are at higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses and need special care and attention during the hot summer months. People of advanced age, especially those aged 65 and above, can rapidly develop serious and life-threatening conditions such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke." "They are also at risk of developing complications to existing medical conditions. It is important that we frequently check on our elderly family members, friends and neighbours to make sure they are safe, especially those who are living alone, have chronic medical conditions or have difficulty caring for themselves." 

HMC's Senior Consultant of Emergency Medicine Dr Warda al Saad advised those who work outdoors to take precautions against heat-related illnesses. She said the sun is at its hottest between the hours of 10am and 4pm and noted that HMC's Emergency Departments receive the great number of patients with heat illness during these hours. "To avoid heat-related illnesses, outdoor workers should increase their water and fluid consumption. They should be drinking regularly throughout the day so that they don't get thirsty. Avoiding direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm is also recommended, as this is generally the hottest period of the day," Dr Saad advised.

source: Qatar Tribune