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CMO shares advice on battling heatwave

Adriel Richard

CMO shares advice on battling heatwave
Chief Medical Officer, Dr The Most Honourable Kenneth George - FP

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Chief Medical Officer, Dr The Most Honourable Kenneth George warned Barbadians it was important to be aware of the serious health risks they faced in really hot weather and understand how the current heatwave being felt across the island may affect them.

Weather forecasters issued a high temperature warning for Barbados this past Monday, with the mercury expected to hover between 32 and 34 degrees Celsius – or higher in urban areas – as hot spells persist for the remainder of September and the greater part of October.

Dr George advised Barbadians not to over-exert themselves, which may add to the symptoms of heat exhaustion that are usually mild at first before escalating over a short period of time.

“Basically, what happens is that it is a slow and progressive failure of the body to compensate when in a prolonged situation,” he said in a news release issued through the Barbados Government Information Service.

“Persons may experience headache, fast heart rate, feeling generally unwell, a feeling of thirst, dizziness, and that may progress to fainting, if in a prolonged heat situation.

“And then later, the unfortunate outcome is that you start to get organ failure, wherein the body is not able to compensate anymore.”

The CMO acknowledged that there were some categories of workers who could not avoid being outdoors, but he recommended they take short breaks in cool areas when exposed to the sun.

Dr George also advised that special attention must be paid to certain groups such as the elderly and children during this time.

“For children under six months, breastfeeding alone is still only recommended,” he said. “You have to breastfeed much more frequently.

“And for the elderly, it is important that some younger folks check in on them regularly, making sure that they have access to cool water during the day.”

The CMO shared advice on what to do if someone was exhibiting signs of heat stress.

“The treatment, in severe cases, is to bring down the core temperature of the body to an acceptable range and that needs to be done quickly,” he said.

“If a person has fainted outdoors, while you wait for the ambulance, all attempts should be made to cool that individual. This can be done by placing cold packs on their chest and forehead or placing a wet towel to try to bring down the temperature.”

Dr George also shared tips on how to keep cool during the searing heat.

These included:

  • Staying out of direct sunlight for long periods as much as possible during the day, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is at its hottest.
  • Wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Staying hydrated: An individual need three to three-and-a-half litres of water a day, but the CMO recommends consumption of up to four or five litres of fluid daily with the current temperatures.
  • Drinking cool water instead of ice-cold water to quench thirst.
  • Avoiding sugary beverages and limiting the consumption of alcohol, which worsens the symptoms of heat exhaustion by causing dehydration. Note: Alcohol is also a diuretic and makes the kidneys pass more fluids.

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