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Pakistan’s Worst Heatwave: Here’s How You Can Save Yourself

Dr. Hira Tanveer

4 min read

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All of us have heard warnings regarding the adverse effect of climate change, and now we can see them as well. Recently, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) issued a heatwave warning as the temperature soared above forty degrees Celsius in many parts of the country.

The temperature during April was also at a record high. Urban centers such as Lahore and Karachi are experiencing the most intense temperatures. Citizens were advised to avoid going in the sun unnecessarily.

What is a heatwave?

Long durations of abnormally high temperatures are known as heatwaves. The temperatures may vary from country to country. Usually, a heatwave occurs when the temperature rises ten degrees or higher than the usual temperature in a region.

High pressure in the upper atmosphere is the culprit of the increase in temperature. It pushes warm air downwards and compresses it, resulting in soaring temperatures and scorching heat.

Heatwaves can lead to heat stroke and exhaustion. Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • Excess sweating and panting
  • Dehydration
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Flushed and hot skin
  • Fainting

Keep a lookout for these signs in others, as well as yourself, because heatstroke can be deadly if not treated at the right time. If you feel symptoms of heatstroke, consult a General Physician in Lahore as soon as possible. Someone fainting around you can be a sign of heatstroke and needs immediate medical attention.

Heatwave in Pakistan

Extreme temperatures are not new to Pakistanis. The energy and fuel sources in Pakistan are dependent on coal, oil, and natural gas. These contribute to the high temperatures and unprecedented changes in the weather in the South Asian region.

The situation has become alarming in the last few years because of the early onset, intensity, and duration of heat spells. It has also cut short the season of spring in Pakistan. Many people have become ill, and in some worst cases, people died due to the dry spells of hot weather. In a recent tweet by Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman said,

“Climate change is national security now: it impacts food & water security, the air we breathe, the soil we exploit, & strips the country of vital resources, impacting anywhere from 4-6 % of GDP. Yet the biggest challenge is awareness, in multiple circles.” 

The surprising and sudden rise of temperatures in most areas of Pakistan shows that urgent action needs to be taken by the government to create awareness of climate change and work towards mitigating its effects. If preemptive action is not taken, the situation is likely to get worse in the coming years.

Preparing for a heatwave

Several warnings have been issued regarding the heatwave, and Pakistan may face more severe heatwaves. It is best to prepare for such occurrences in advance. Here are a few tips that can help you in preparing for unbearably hot weather.

  1. Install an air conditioner or any other cooling device to manage the temperature inside the house.
  2. Insulate your windows, especially where the sunlight hits directly.
  3. Be prepared for any power outages and keep a backup for electricity
  4. Keep a water bottle with you at all times
  5. Check the weather forecast before leaving the house and stay up-to-date on any warnings
  6. Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

10 ways to protect yourself from a heatwave

1. Avoid sun exposure

Try to limit your time outdoors, especially during the hottest peak hours (10 am to 4 pm). Cancel any plans which involve going and staying out, such as playing sports. If you cannot avoid the sun, carry protective gear such as an umbrella or a hat.

2. Hydrate yourself

Hydration is crucial to surviving in insufferable heat. Ensure that you are drinking enough water, whether in or out of the house. Keep an extra water bottle in your case in case of an emergency. Eating fruits and vegetables with high-water content can also aid in keeping your hydration up. Get enough electrolytes to keep your energy high.

3. Do not leave a child in the car alone

Do not make the mistake of leaving your child alone in the car during this boiling weather. The result can be fatal. Additionally, do not leave a pet in a hot car as well. Pets also need to be kept in a cool place as heatstroke can happen to animals too.

4. Keep indoors protected

Switch on the air conditioner when the temperature gets too hot. Install blinds or drapes to keep the sunlight out. Green net shades are often used outside the windows to keep the inside temperature down. Use mist fans or place ice in front of a fan to get cold air – if air conditioning is not an option.

5. Avoid drinks that make you feel dehydrated

As much as we love coffee, caffeine, colas, energy drinks, and other caffeinated beverages can dehydrate your body. It is in your best interest to stay away from them as much as possible. Instead, opt for healthy drinks to beat the summer heat.

6. Wear loose and light clothes

What you wear can impact your body heat. Dark color clothes absorb sunlight and make you feel warmer. Tight clothing can make you feel uncomfortable and hot due to friction between your body and clothes. It’s time to take us or get clothes with breathable fabrics and light colors to feel airy.

7. Eat body cooling foods

Alter your diet in the summers as some foods may have a cooling effect on your body. It can maintain body heat. Some fruits and vegetables are a great addition to your summer diet, such as watermelon, cucumbers, coconut water, yogurt, etc. Mint and aloe vera can also help provide your body with a cooling effect. Additionally, aloe vera can help ease any rash due to sun exposure.

8. Protect your skin

Ideally, you should wear sunscreen all around the year, but it is a must in summers. Do not leave the house without applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. Sun exposure can damage your skin and cause tan and rashes in the short term. It can also have long-term effects such as skin cancer. Keep facial mist with you and spritz it on your face from time to time.

9. Take baths often

During a heatwave, water can be your best friend. Apart from keeping you hydrated, taking a shower or just washing your body with water twice to thrice a day can keep your body temperature low. To avoid wasting water, you can take sponge baths or use a wet cloth to clean your body. Using a damp cloth on the neck and wrists can be effective.

10. Consider shifting on the lower portion

The upper portion is more vulnerable to heat because the air gets warmer with altitude. Consider staying in the lower part of the house during summers. Basements can be bliss in summers as they are pleasant, even when it is warm outside.

11. Find shelter if you feel dizzy

A heatstroke can make you feel lightheaded and dizzy. It may happen if you have been traveling in the sun for a long time. A lot of sweating and feeling lightheaded can be a heatstroke. Get under a shelter if you feel any symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion. Drink water and call someone who can come to your aid.

12. Remove extra sources of heat

Consume food that does not require a lot of time on the stove as it can accumulate heat. Some appliances and bulbs also generate heat which can increase the temperature in your house. Restrict the use of heat-generating devices to keep a cooler temperature inside the house.

Conclusion

Pakistan is on alert for a heatwave second year in a row. A heatwave can lead to exhaustion, heatstroke, or even death, in some cases. Prepare beforehand when there is a heatwave alert and keep an eye on the weather forecast. Take all the necessary precautions to save your loved ones and yourself from the heat.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer - Author Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favorite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, healthy diet, and lifestyle.
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