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How to keep cool

Heatstroke is a condition in which a person’s body temperature increases dramatically because of prolonged exposure to very high temperatures usually in combination with dehydration. It leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. This is a very common occurrence in India during summer.

Some people are more vulnerable to heat stroke. This includes infants, athletes, the elderly, those who work in the sun and individuals left in rooms without adequate ventilation.

The main sign of heat stroke is extremely high body temperature, mental delirium, seizures, confusion, irritability, agitation, slurred speech or altered behaviour. Other common symptoms include flushed skin, dizziness, nausea, throbbing headache, rapid breathing and increased heart rate. Occasionally, there can be loss of consciousness.

Prevention

Some simple steps can prevent heat stroke­:

  • Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of fluid every 15 to 30 minutes — water, fruit juices, thandai, tender coconut water or barley water.
  • Avoid aerated drinks and drinks with caffeine and alcohol. Wear comfortable loose, light-coloured clothing, preferably made of cotton. Apply sunscreen liberally before you venture out — use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Remember to cover your head with a scarf or a hat and wear sunglasses. Using an umbrella is a good option.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity in the sun. And try not to go out when the sun is at its peak, between 11 am and 4 pm. Venture out in the late evening or early morning.

Do not leave children or pets locked in a parked car or a poorly ventilated house. This can be fatal.

A quick cold shower can beat the heat. A coconut oil scalp massage helps normalise body temperature. Consuming Rose Gulkand — 10 to 20 gm, twice daily — is cooling. Add green vegetables and fresh juicy fruits in your diet. The practice of Sheetali Pranayam (breathing technique) helps cool the body and mind.

Home remedies: To reduce heat stroke symptoms, apply a thin paste of sandalwood powder and rose water on the forehead and chest for 20 to 30 minutes (or until it dries). The dried paste can be wiped off later with a wet towel. Applying onion juice or paste behind the ears and on the chest helps bring down body temperature.

Fennel seeds (saunf) are cooling. Soak a fistful overnight in a cup of water, strain and drink the water in the morning. Soak 10 to 12 raisins overnight in water/milk and consume along with the water/milk in the morning.

Soak 100 gm of green gram (moong) overnight. Grind with sufficient water, strain, add jaggery to taste. Drink this refreshing drink often during the day. Alternatively, boil a cup of dried green gram with three cups of water. Strain the liquid and consume it as often as possible.

Roast one or two chopped medium sized onions in an open pan and add a quarter- or half- teaspoonful of cumin seed powder and half-teaspoonful of sugar. Consuming this mixture twice/thrice daily is another popular home remedy for heat stroke.

Fresh amla juice, raw mango juice (aam panna), fresh coriander and mint juice, buttermilk, wood-apple (bael) juice are some popular, must-have drinks in summer.

Treatment: If you suspect that someone has had a heat stroke, immediately move the person to an air-conditioned room or a cool, shady area and remove any unnecessary clothing. Fan air over the person while wetting his or her skin with water. Ice packs, a cold water shower or even a towel dipped in cold water is first-aid for heatstroke.

Herbs like amalaki (amla), ushira (khus khus roots), chandana (sandalwood), narikela (coconut), etc., play a key role in balancing body temperature. Take 10 to 20 ml of fresh amla juice, adding 5-10 gm sugar candy powder (mishri), for nausea/vomiting due to heatstroke. Or 5-10 gm amla powder with water can also be taken.

Soak coarsely powdered khus khus roots (10 gm) overnight in 100 ml of water. Strain and drink in the morning.

Glucose water and ORS liquid may be suggested in cases of dehydration.

Prepare a decoction of Shadangapaneeya (ready-to-use decoction powder available in Ayurveda pharmacies/raw herb stores). This helps alleviate thirst and fever during heat stroke.

The following Ayurvedic formulations are good for management of heat stroke:

  • Sarasaparilla (SN Pandit/BV Pandit) or Sheeta Sudha (Dhootpapeshwar) — 20 ml syrup in half cup of water/cold milk, 3-4 times daily.
  • Chandanasava (Kottakkal) — 20 ml with equal water, twice daily after meals.

If there are any complications such as respiratory distress, brain involvement, or kidney or liver damage, then conditions should be medically managed. For dehydration, hospital management with intravenous fluids may be necessary. 

Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 17 years. He is currently  National Manager, Scientific Services,  at The Himalaya Drug Company

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