By Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
True to the prediction of the Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET), which warned Nigerians to prepare for more hot days and warm nights, the weather has been rather unpleasant with sweltering heat tormenting people.
A colleague of this reporter, who called from Maiduguri a few days ago acknowledged that the situation is so bad that by 11am, thae heat generated by sun is so fierce that very few people venture out. Most people try to run their daily errands before 11am and then find shelter to escape from the torment of the heat wave.
A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity, according to Wikipedia. In other words, it is a period of abnormal and uncomfortable hot weather. Wikipedia further explains that a heat wave is measured relative to the usual weather in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season. Temperatures that people from a hotter climate consider normal can be termed a heat wave in a cooler area if they are outside the normal climate pattern for that area.
The term is applied both to hot weather variations and extraordinary spells of hot weather which may occur only once a century. Severe heat waves have caused catastrophic crop failures, thousands of deaths from hyperthermia, and widespread power outages due to increased use of air conditioning. A heat wave is considered extreme weather, and a danger because heat and sunlight may overheat the human body.
Heat wave typically occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere traps heat near the ground, forming a heat wave. Therefore, heat waves form when high pressure aloft (from 10,000–25,000 feet (3,000–7,600 metres) strengthens and remains over a region for several days up to several weeks.
The tropical nature of Nigeria has naturally made the people more resistant to rising heat levels, notwithstanding this, prolonged exposure to extreme heat, when outdoors, has adverse health implications that need to be avoided.
One of the major health complications is hyperthermia, also known as heat stroke. The most vulnerable are older adults, very young children, and those who are sick or overweight. The chronically ill and elderly are often taking prescription medications (diuretics, anticholinergics, antipsychotics, and antihypertensives) that interfere with the body’s ability to dissipate heat.
Some individuals may suffer heat edema, but this can be easily managed by appropriate intervention by a doctor. Some other people break out in heat rash (also called prickly heat), which usually affects parts of the body covered with tight clothing. The heat rash if not checked may result to chronic dermatitis caused by secondary bacterial infection. Once heat rash has developed, apply chlorhexidine lotion to remove any desquamated skin. The associated itching may be treated with topical or systemic antihistamines. If infection occurs a regimen of antibiotics is required.
However, prevention of the development of heat rash is the best therapy. It is also advised to wear loose-fitting clothing in the heat. To survive heat wave, the following strategies should be adopted.
1. Use box fans and ceiling fans to promote air circulation throughout your home. Opening doors in the house and using box fans to push hot air outdoors can function as an “exhaust” system and draw cooler evening air into the house. In the cooler evenings, open all windows and promote as much air circulation as possible. When the sun rises, close all doors and windows, making sure to close curtains and blinds as well, to keep the indoors cool for as long as possible. When the outside air cools to a lower temperature than inside (usually in the evenings or at night), open up the windows and turn on the fans again.
2. Take advantage of the cooling power of water. Fill buckets or basins and soak your feet. Wet towels and bandannas can have a cooling effect when worn on the shoulders or head. Take cool showers or baths, and consider using a spray bottle filled with cold water for refreshing spritzes throughout the day.
If you have access to a swimming pool, go take a refreshing dive and stay as long as long you can. If not regularly toss water on your face and pour some on your head. You obviously must have seen commuter bus drivers in Lagos stick out there heads at a bus stop and generously “baptize” their heads with cold water from sachets. You should do the same!
3. Head downstairs. Since hot air rises, the upper stories of a home will be warmer than the ground floor. If your home has a tree with a shade, sit under the tree and enjoy the cool breeze.
4. Eliminate extra sources of heat. Incandescent light bulbs can generate unnecessary heat, as can computers or appliances left running. Eat fresh foods that do not require you to use the oven or stove to prepare.
5. Remember to maintain an adequate level of hydration, which means you’ll need to consume more water than you usually do when it’s hot. If you’re sweating profusely, you will also need to replace electrolytes by eating a small amount of food with your water or by drinking specially-formulated electrolyte replacement drinks, such as Lucozade Boost. Thirst is the first sign of dehydration; you should drink sufficient amounts of fluids before you feel thirsty in order to prevent dehydration. Keep a bottle water near you, to remind you to drink.
6. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, as both of these substances can act as diuretics and promote dehydration.
7. For a homemade “air conditioning” system, sit in the path of a box fan that is aimed at an open cooler, or pan filled with ice.
8. Try to visit public buildings with air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day if the heat becomes unbearable. Libraries, shopping malls, and movie theaters can all be good places to cool down.
9. Don’t eat large, protein-rich meals that can increase metabolic heat and warm the body. Insead take generous portions of fresh fruits and vegetables.
10. Be able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and true heat emergencies (heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, heat stroke).
11. Monitor your blood pressure.
12. As much as possible, stay indoors between the hours of noon (midday) to about 4pm, depending on the nature of your job or your way of earning a living. In this regard, policemen on duty at junctions of city roads should be provided box shades, sponsored by corporate organisations as a social service.
13. Take cold baths before going to bed at night. Bathe again after conjugal activities at night.