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By Kieran Sheridan, Board-Certified Sports Physiotherapist, United Arab Emirates

For four consecutive days in July 2023, the world recorded the highest temperatures in recent days. In retrospect, this was a sickening precursor to the current European heatwaves. The raging heatwaves have affected thousands of residents and holidaymakers alike. It’s simply sickening!

Notably, the Gulf region of the Middle East, the acclaimed global oil center, has consistently recorded significant temperature rates vis a vis the terrifying climate shifts afflicting the world. In the United Arab Emirates, recent average temperatures were almost 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than 60 years ago. Estimates show that the mercury could climb by another 2.4 degrees Celsius over the next 40 years!

Yes, in 2023, extreme heat waves significantly threaten health, the natural world, and the built environment. What are the greatest risks associated with heatwaves and steadily rising temperatures? Kieran Sheridan, a seasoned sports physiotherapist, who lives and works in the sweltering hot and humid conditions characterizing the UAE, offers an expert opinion.

How Rising Temperatures Can Affect You

Consider the following ways rising temperatures can affect you:

  • Heat-related diseases: In extreme heat, people are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Other effects include dehydration, fatigue, disorientation, nausea, and organ damage or death. Such factors can worsen chronic disorders like heart disease and diabetes.
  • Impact on infrastructure: Heatwaves can strain utilities, including the electrical grid, transportation networks, and building structures. Power outages, melted roads, buckled rail lines, and building construction damage are all possible outcomes of abnormally high temperatures. It causes inconvenience and threatens public safety.
  • Water scarcity and drought: There is a direct correlation between heat waves and drought, a decrease in water supply, and an increase in water demand. It negatively impacts agriculture, ecosystems, and water supplies.
  • Economic consequences: Heat waves can cause severe monetary impacts. Further, heat-related sickness, power outages, and lower agricultural output cause a   drop in production. And, of course, the rising price of cooling units can strain businesses and family budgets.

How to Keep Safe From Heatwaves

Here are some tips for staying safe during a heat wave:

Use fans or air conditioning: If available, use fans or air conditioning to cool your living space. Position fans near windows to create a cross-breeze, and use portable fans to increase air circulation. Ensure your cooling equipment functions properly; follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents or electrical hazards.

Limit physical activity: Strenuous physical activities during heat waves can stress your body and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. Reduce or avoid outdoor activities that require significant exertion, especially during peak heat periods. If you must exercise or work outdoors, try to do it earlier in the day. Take frequent breaks in air-conditioned or shaded areas.

Protect yourself: Apply sunscreen with an SPF(  high sun protection factor) to the exposed areas of your skin, even on cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen frequently every two hours or more if you are sweating or swimming. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen- it protects against UVA and UVB rays.

Check on vulnerable individuals: Keep an eye on older people, children, and individuals with chronic illnesses, as they are more susceptible to heat-related health issues. Offer assistance and ensure they take necessary precautions to stay cool and hydrated. Encourage them to seek air-conditioned environments and provide support as needed.

Dress appropriately: Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing of breathable cotton or linen. Go for light colors that reflect sunlight rather than absorb it. Wear wide-brimmed hats that help protect your face and neck from the sun. Remember that sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays- use them.

Be aware of heat-related illnesses: Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two common illnesses that can have severe consequences if left untreated. Recognize heat exhaustion symptoms, such as heavy sweating, dizziness, nausea, headache, and weakness. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cooler place.

Stay hydrated: On hot days, and generally every day, it’s best to stay hydrated. Water is the best solution to prevent further dehydration. The hot temperature during a heat wave will make you sweat even more. Replace the lost fluids with enough water. Try to get in as much as 10-12 cups a day on the regular.

Stay updated with local weather forecasts and heat advisories issued by meteorological departments or health authorities. Pay attention to heat-related alerts and follow their recommendations and guidelines. Many countries and regions have heat action plans to provide information and guidance during heat waves. Stay connected with reliable sources and adjust your plans accordingly.

Our Takeaway

Heatwaves and high temperatures can have devastating effects on your life.

In addition to these suggestions, creating a support network within your community is essential. Check on neighbors, friends, and family members, especially those vulnerable to the heat. By working together and taking collective action, you can stay safe and protect the well-being of everyone during the current heat waves.

  • Kieran Sheridan

    Hi, My name is Kieran Sheridan. I’m the founder and co-owner of GulfPhysio (https://www.gulfphysio.com/), UAE’s Largest Online Sports Taping And Physiotherapy Supply Store. I am a fitness and physiotherapy expert, who works hand in hand with other experts to ensure that our products satisfy customers.

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