Pakistan

Hospitals in Islamabad Prepare Heatwave Response Centres

All medical health facilities under the District Health Office Islamabad have been instructed to establish emergency ‘heatwave response centers’ that will operate seven days a week.

In a letter, the District Health Office directed these centers to appoint focal persons, ensure the availability of relevant staff, and provide training on the emergency management of heatstroke patients by in-charge medical officers.

The facilities must ensure the availability of essential supplies, including ORS, fluids, ice packs, emergency life-saving medicines, and cotton rolls/gauze pads for sponging.

Patients must receive immediate treatment, including moving them to a cooler environment with air conditioning or at least into the shade. Essential supplies should be maintained, and staff should be trained on managing heatstroke patients, the letter emphasized.

 

If a person shows symptoms of heatstroke, they should be placed in a horizontal position with elevated legs and hips, unnecessary clothing should be removed, and external cooling should be initiated by placing cold packs on the neck, armpits, and groin. Continuous fanning and spraying the skin with water at 25–30°C are also recommended. Body temperature should be measured, and acetylsalicylic acid or paracetamol should not be administered. The letter stated: “Establish an IV line immediately as severe cases often require intravenous rehydration. Promote sweat evaporation by placing the patient before a fan and using ice packs under the armpits and groin. If the patient can drink, they should be given plenty of water in a sitting position. Monitor the body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until it drops from 101°F to 102°F. Antipyretics may be administered once the temperature is below 101°F. Monitor vitals.”

The letter noted that May, June, and July are extremely hot in Pakistan and often accompanied by heat waves due to global warming and climate change, increasing the risk of heatstroke mortality and morbidity. Immediate necessary measures are crucial.

Heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness, occurring when the body cannot control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and it cannot cool down. Heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability without emergency treatment.

Common symptoms of heatstroke include profuse sweating or lack of sweating with hot, red, or dry skin, weakness, lethargy, chills, throbbing headache, high body temperature, hallucinations, confusion, dizziness, and slurred speech. Infants, elderly persons, athletes, and outdoor workers are at high risk.

The letter emphasized that heatstroke is preventable. Preventive measures include avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day, performing strenuous activities during the coolest part of the day (usually between 4 am and 7 am), staying in the shade, and not leaving children or animals in parked vehicles.

Additionally, people should drink plenty of water, limit time in direct sunlight, avoid dehydration, and refrain from vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. Those working in the sun should take breaks in the shade and drink plenty of fluids. Caffeine and sugary drinks should be avoided as they may worsen dehydration.

Consume salty foods, use umbrellas, and wear hats, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Keep the body cool and hydrated by taking cool showers or baths, using cold packs, wraps, towels, sponging, and footbaths.

“If you feel dizzy, weak, anxious, or have intense thirst and headache during a heatwave, move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature. Drink water or fruit juice to rehydrate. Rest in a cool place if you experience painful muscle spasms, and drink oral rehydration solution (ORS) containing electrolytes. Seek medical attention if heat cramps last more than an hour. Consult a doctor if unusual symptoms persist and continue drinking fluids,” the letter added.

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Published by
Rija Sohaib