Beating the Heat: Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy During Heat Waves

By Amatul Ameen | 12th May 2023

Beating the Heat: Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy During Heat Waves

As temperatures continue to rise during the summer months, heat waves have become increasingly common, resulting in a multitude of environmental changes. Unfortunately, the effects of heat waves on health and well-being are far from desirable. If this trend continues, the next generation will face a world that is vastly different from what we consider normal. In this blog, we’ll explore the impact of heat waves and the urgent need to address this critical issue.

An understanding of heat waves is imperative. As the impact of a heat wave is not limited to life, but extends to agriculture, the environment, and animals. Implementing appropriate changes at the government and individual levels together will save nature & lives.

Let’s discuss heat waves, including their impact on health, risks to vulnerable people, symptoms, causes, tips to handle heat waves and management of heat waves.

What is a heat wave?

What is a heat wave

Heatwave is a scorching hot weather condition for an unusually prolonged period of time. It lasts for more than two to three days. And it is characterised by hot and moistened or sweaty conditions.

Heat waves are silent and deadly situations which are often overlooked or ignored. You should be extra careful and cautious during the warnings of heat waves by being present and providing resources for children and older adults.

Heatwaves are highly harmful and life-threatening. Its effects on health range from temporary; trivial to complex and long-term. When the temperature rises more than 42 degrees Celsius, we sense increased irritability, a loss of concentration during regular physical and mental tasks, and a loss of ability to complete heavy tasks/ work.

When exposed to heat, address the issue immediately, drink plenty of water and move to shady and cool places to avoid a further rise in body temperature, as heat waves affect maximum outdoors.

Avoid being out in the sun, especially when the effects of a heat wave are maximum. The heat wave effect is not very obvious to the human eye until it affects the person; always check on loved ones and neighbours during such conditions.

What causes a heat wave?


Climate change is the leading cause of natural disasters like heat waves and other natural calamities like floods and landslides. India is among the most vulnerable countries impacted by climate change.

Global warming has a crucial role in climate change. The increased concentration of gases like carbon dioxide and methane is intricately connected to climate change. If the levels of gases like carbon dioxide are not controlled, it will lead to a fatal situation.

The source of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are fossil fuels from generating electricity, deforestation, from manufacturing goods industries like steel, iron, cement, plastics and electronic items.

From 1901-2018 India’s average temperature has risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius. On 15th May 2022, the Indian meteorological department reported a rise in temperatures of 40- 50 degrees Celsius. This was followed by a heatwave at the end of April and May when temperatures reached 43 to 46 degrees Celsius.

Hazards of a heat wave

They serve as indicators to act for the next step. The health impact of heat waves is seen in the form of dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

The signs and symptoms for these forms are as below

  • Heat cramps: These are characterised by swelling on body parts, including the face, hands, and legs. Fainting accompanied by a fever below 39 degrees Celsius.
  • Heat exhaustion: It is characterised by fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and sweating.
  • Heat stroke: It is indicated by body temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius or more with fits, delirium, and coma. It is a potentially fatal condition.

Heatwaves are also associated with heart, respiratory tract and kidney-related illnesses. People with such illnesses should take special precautions in these circumstances.

Respiratory diseases occur when the quality of air is affected. It is characterised by an increase in the production of ozone gas which leads to smog formation. The smog containing ozone is harmful to the respiratory system and especially to asthma patients. Respiratory disease patients should take Extra Care to avoid any hazards.

Heat waves can cause heart attack and damage to the cardiac system, leading to a low blood pumping level and a reduced ability to eliminate heat from the heart. Avoid any physical exertion on the body during the hot season as this may put additional risk on heart function.

Medications which interfere with heat wave regulation are

  • Beta-blockers: It lowers the heartbeat, and the ability to circulate the blood at a usual/regular rate is affected; hence effective heat exchange during the heat wave is inhibited.
  • Diuretics: Diuretics worsen the effect of heat waves on the body. Excess urine causes further lowered levels of water inside the body.
  • Few antidepressants and anti-histamines lead to the locking of the sweat process, thereby increasing body temperature. Hence, consult the doctor for advice on medicine intake.
  • In Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, the signals of dehydration are not well perceived. Hence the thirst is not detected by the body leading to dehydration. Take doctor’s advice during these hot summers, drink plenty of fluids and water and avoid venturing out during the core periods of hot weather.

Risks associated with heat waves

Some groups face a greater risk of heat-related illnesses than others. For example, outdoor workers and athletes are more prone to heat effects than office workers.

  • Children: Children are typically vulnerable to heat waves. They depend on elders for guidance and care during these times. Give them proper foods, including fluids, cool ambient surroundings, and comfortable clothing. Doing these will ensure their safety from hot temperatures and avoid risks. Children are less efficient in regulating their body temperature as they have high metabolic rates but low cardiac function. This makes them even more vulnerable to the hazards of heat waves.
  • Athletes: Sports persons are at a greater risk of heat waves due to their physical exertion, wearing gear -which traps heat and exposure to extreme heat. Direct sunlight and poor air quality exacerbate the existing conditions. The line between tough physical and routine physical activities is blurred for athletes, so the risk is higher. The support is extended by educating and providing resources and training them on how to carry out their activities. This will keep them safe during hot temperatures.
  • Older adults: Just like children, older adults are “dependants”, too. They need special care and attention to protect and help them through routine activities. Being reachable to them anytime is a sure-shot way to help them. Older people with heart ailments or other illnesses experience exacerbated heat wave conditions. Power outages common during the heat extremities can interrupt the oxygen or life support system supply. The risk is high and almost life-threatening for older adults.
  • Pregnant women: Extreme temperature heat waves affect pregnant women and the foetus inside the womb too. Changes like extreme skin rash, sweating and increased core temperature occur in pregnant women and are risks for them. Pregnancy is a critical stage of women’s life, they need support and care, like giving them the right foods, rich in supplements, water, and salts, especially in these extreme natural conditions.
  • Emergency workers: The emergency workers are the first line of support who help the public in their time of need. They include police, paramedics, firefighters, and medical professionals. Though they are not dependent, they need support through resources like cooling spots, training resources and other information. They protect us, and we must ensure their well-being.
  • Outdoor and indoor workers: Agriculture, fishing, construction workers and military personnel are considered outdoor workers. Physical exertion is a part of their work. The heated environments push them to risk borders as it becomes difficult for them to cope with stamina, energy and loss of water/salts. Lack of shade and water makes things worse. Providing shelters, cool water, and guides to handle extreme temperatures during extreme heat waves will help you survive harsh conditions.
  • Pets: “Thermo neutral zones” are the range of temperatures within which the pet animals can adjust and survive the temperatures. The thermal neutral zones are skewed during heat waves. Animals cannot express themselves completely, so symptoms like panting, sweating, and making unusual sounds will let us know their condition. Do care for the pets against heat waves and help them escape them.

Heat waves: Do’s and Dont’s

Prevention and minimising the effects of heat waves can be achieved through the following measures:

  1. Do not stay out during the daytime, especially during the afternoon, between 1:00 to 3:00 PM.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids along with water, even if you are not feeling thirsty.
  3. Wear light-coloured, lightweight, and loose, breathable fabric clothes.
  4. Use protective gear like sunglasses, umbrellas, shoes, caps, hats or chappals when going out in the sun.
  5. Avoid strenuous physical activities as they may lead to stress and worsen the body’s response to heat waves.
  6. Avoid working outside under direct sunlight from 12:00 to 3:00 PM.
  7. Carry water outside in the sun and sip it regularly to avoid rising body temperature.
  8. Avoid caffeine and carbonated drinks, and sip in fresh juices and flavoured waters instead.
  9. Never leave children, older adults or anyone in closed vehicles
  10. Avoid food rich in proteins
  11. If you feel dizzy or feel nauseated, see the doctor immediately
  12. Drink buttermilk, ORS and lemon water to maintain the balance of the electrolytes in the body
  13. Keep the animals and pets in the shade, and provide them with plenty of water and the right food foods
  14. Use coolers, stay in the shade, and bathe twice during heat waves to ward off its side effects

Tips for treating the heat wave-affected individual

Tips for handling sunstroke are an essential part of immediately controlling the extreme situation. Doing so will save people’s lives & avoid the worsening of the heat effect

  • If a person is affected due to heat, lay the person on the ground in a cool place and often wipe the body with a wet cloth until the body temperature returns to normal.
  • Pour normal water on the head. This will reduce the body temperature of the individual.
  • Give fluids like ORS, Lemon water, coconut water, and sherbet to rehydrate the body.
  • Take the person to the nearest clinic if the above tips do not help improve health conditions. As heat strokes can be fatal sometimes.


While a heat wave is a natural occurrence, the impact of such an event is exacerbated by the exploitation of natural resources. The impact of the heat waves on humanity, the environment and everything around us has been devastating. The harmful effects are recognised through symptoms like fainting, dizziness, and fever. First aid care can treat these symptoms. If the situation is uncontrolled, visit the hospital soon after the heat stroke is fatal. While heat waves affect all people, some sections of vulnerable people need to be prioritised. The risk for such vulnerable people is high when compared to normal adults. The vulnerable section comprises older people, children, pregnant women, indoor and outdoor workers, emergency workforce and pets. The risk associated with them can be handled. They depend on others due to their inability to care for themselves. Giving adequate care in the form of guiding them on daily routine changes during extreme weather conditions, being available and reachable when they need us, and educating them about heat wave consequences are a few things to keep them safe. A list of things mentioned in the article to follow will help to survive the heat wave. Finally, as heat waves are abnormal, we must do our bit and save nature.

Which state has more heat in India?

Rajasthan state has the most heat in India.

Which is the hottest city in India?

Murshidabad is the hottest city in India as of 2023.

Which was the worst heat wave in history?

The heat wave in California in July 1913 was the worst recorded in history.

Where is the hottest place on Earth?

The Lut desert in Iran is considered the hottest place on the earth.

What is the maximum heat humans can live in?

The maximum heat humans can live in is approximately below 42 degrees Celsius.

Why is India facing heat waves?

India is facing heat waves due to climate change. Climate change results from the excessive use of natural resources like coal and petroleum.

Can humans survive 50 degrees of heat?

No, humans cannot survive 50 degrees of heat.

Is a heatwave disaster in India?

Yes, Heatwaves are a natural disaster in India.

How long do heat waves last in India?

Heat waves last for three or more days in India.


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