Many of us come from those parts of the world where summer is all about going out and having lots of fun and frolics, however summer in Dubai is different and a little harsher.
Going out in the sun is really not a bright idea. Excessive heat, sun and humidity bring a ton of health risks along with it. In Dubai, it does not end here, exposure to boiling heat and over the top chilled air conditioning, can in a matter of a few seconds make the situation even worse and make us more vulnerable to summer health risks.
Severe summer conditions continue until the end of September and as we still have a few months to go, we spoke with medical experts to help us guide our readers on the most common summer health risks, how to treat them and what you can do in general to avoid them.
Most Common Health Risks
Skin Cancer And Other Diseases
Exposure to the sun in the summer can lead to something as dangerous as skin cancer. People who spend lots of time out in the sun, have fair skin colour and are over 50 years old are more at risk than others.
Dr T. T. Haris, General Practitioner at Aster Clinic, Satwa says, “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer that occurs in those people who spend a lot of time under the sun, especially during the peak hours of 12pm to 3pm. Exposure to the sun automatically leads to the exposure of harmful UV rays, which are the primary cause of skin cancer.” The harsh summer weather can also lead to oily, sticky skin, uneven skin tone, body odour and heat boils.
Talking on preventive measures Dr T. T. Haris suggests, “Some ways in which you can protect yourself from UV rays include - putting on sunscreen, wearing a hat, avoiding going out in the afternoons, seeking shade wherever possible in the summer months.”
Food items become easily contaminated in the summer because of rapid bacteria growth in hot temperatures. If food is left outside for more than two hours, it easily becomes a breeding ground for rapid bacterial growth and can make people sick when they eat the food.
Dr Thomas Abraham, Specialist Internal Medicine at Emirates Hospital Clinics, Conrad Hotel says, “Incidence of food poisoning is more during summer months. If food is not kept at the right temperature, kept out for more than one hour at temperatures between 90º and 110ºF or for more than 2 hours at temperatures less than 90ºF, there is increased growth of bacteria and risk for food poisoning.”
To avoid food poisoning in the summer, Dr Thomas Abraham suggests, "People should avoid home deliveries and takeaways of cooked foods, discard food that was left out for more than two hours, and should maintain proper hand hygiene by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water before and after handling food and after using bathrooms, changing diapers and after handling pets.”
“If a tummy bug hits then fluids are key. Small sips frequently will help the stomach to have a little rest. Again see the doctor if symptoms are clearing on their own,” says Dr. Eleanor Curry, Consultant Family Medicine at Mediclinic Dubai Mall.
Heat cramps are muscle spasms that result from loss of large amounts of salt and water through exercise. Heat cramps are associated with cramping in the abdomen, arms and calves. Heavy sweating during summer causes heat cramps, however heat cramps do not lead to fatal consequences like heat strokes. “Stop all exercise and sit in a cool place away from direct sunlight, drink plenty of water or a sports drink and seek medical help if the cramps do not subside in an hour,” advises Dr Lalit Uchil MD, Specialist Internal Medicine, Emirates Speciality Hospital.
Heat Exhaustion And Heat Stroke
Over exposure to extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is less dangerous and if left untreated, it can progress to heat stroke, which can be life threatening. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It happens when the body’s temperature is 104ºF or more. If not treated urgently, it can damage different organ systems.
If a person suspects heat exhaustion, they should take immediate steps to cool down. They should move to a shady region and remove one or more layers of clothing. They should turn on a fan or air conditioning, if available. They can run cool water over the skin or apply cool, wet towels to the body. Drinking a lot of fluids, either water or electrolyte drinks is advised.
Dr Dragana Sarenac, Internal Medicine Specialist at Dubai London Clinic says, “The blue-collar workers often work long hours, sometimes more than six hours straight, under the scorching heat - making the heavy labour unbearable. The midday break has been made compulsory by the UAE Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for workers from 15 June to 15 September. The break is from 12.30pm to 3pm. Do not overexert or push yourself; if you are getting tired, slowdown or work at a steady pace, take regular breaks in cool or shaded areas and report any symptom or cases of heat rash or stress to your superior.”
Dehydration is a very common illness. Make sure that you have water handy all the time and aim to drink a minimum of three to four litres every day. Don't forget about children, they may not ask for water, but be sure to take frequent water breaks during the kids' summer activities.
“Exposure to heat can result in loss of excess amount of fluids from the body in the form of sweat. A 2% loss of fluid in sweat can make a person extremely tired. Further loss of fluid can lead to headache, confusion, muscle cramps and vomiting”, says Dr Thomas Abraham of Emirates Hospital Clinics.”
Summer in the UAE means excessive sunlight, dust storms and heat. Eyes are the most sensitive part of our body and overexposure to the sunlight leads to the retinal damage and other serious eye problems such as burning, dry eyes, itchiness, and boils on eyelids, conjunctivitis and many other eye diseases.
Wearing sunglasses and hats are recommended by doctors to protect your eyes in addition to washing your hands that helps in avoiding the contraction of eye-related conditions such as conjunctivitis. Use eye masks and eye drops to keep eyes fresh and lubricated to avoid itchiness.
Taking a few preventive measures on the other hand can make things a lot smoother and convenient for everyone. Here are few measure that one must take to prevent summer illnesses.
1. Always use sun screen lotions to avoid sun burns while going outdoors.
2. Wear loose fitting light colored cotton clothes and sun glasses.
3. Protect yourself from sand storms.
4. Fungal skin infections can be avoided by using cotton socks (and changing them frequently). Antifungal creams can be used to treat fungal infections.
5. Never leave children or pets unattended in cars.
6. Do not overexert yourself.
7. Stay indoors, preferably in air conditioned rooms, especially when temperatures are very high during the middle of the day.
8. Avoid dehydrating drinks like coffee.
9. Drink an extra 2 to 4 cups of water per hour while exposed to high temperatures.
10. Don’t forget your vaccinations if you’re travelling.
“Living in the region means traveling a lot, especially during the summer holidays. If you’re traveling to somewhere exotic that may require travel vaccinations, it is important that you make an appointment with your family medicine doctor in good time prior to traveling; which should be at least 6 weeks before your date of departure. During your appointment your doctor will ascertain the type of vaccines you need for the countries you’re traveling to. Some of the common vaccinations we might give are Hepatitis B, cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and malaria among others, as well as tablets that you may need while traveling”, adds Dr Ali Razzak - Family Medicine Consultant and Cosmetic Injectables Expert at Aesthetics by King’s College Hospital Dubai