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Health Implications Of The Current Heat Waves In The Country

By Ita Offiong
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As you may have probably observed, the atmosphere these days is becoming increasingly hot and unbearable. The development which has caused profuse perspiration and does not seem to have reprieve even at nights is the effect of global warming currently sweeping across the globe.

This climate change is becoming an emerging public health concerns. The high temperature coupled with humidity has lead to mortality and morbidity where it continues unabatedly through the night. The body becomes exhausted and overwhelmed and may react to this situation mildly or severely from minor symptoms like psychological stress, heat rash, heat cramps, chicken pox to extreme cases like heat syncope, exhaustion, meningitis, fainting and strokes which may lead to neurological damage and even death.

This period of heightened temperature with adverse bodily effects is what is referred to as heat wave. With increase in the body’s temperature, central nervous and circulatory systems are impacted. The most vulnerable to heat waves are children, elderly, sedentary urban dwellers who do not have access to air conditions and those whose apartments do not have windows that allow for ventilation of air. Others are obese and people with certain medical conditions, even diuretic drugs for treatment of HBP and medications for mental health conditions have been found to be susceptible to heat and can worsen the condition of the patients.

Where electricity is not available especially at night hours, the tendency would be to keep both doors and windows ajar. This could be an open invitation to dangerous reptiles and men of the underworld, so care must be taken so that one does not jump from fry pan to fire.

Air conditions have been found to be effective in cooling room temperature but fans actually aggravate such situations because of the hot air they blow.

It is reported that heat waves kill more Americans than other natural disaster like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis.

World Metrological Organization had predicted prolonged and extreme hot weather across the world. It arrived at this conclusion after compiling data from over 80 weather agencies around the world. It is recorded that 2016 was the world hottest year, unfortunately it has so far not changed and this trend has not shown signs of abating soon.

Nigerian Metrological Agency has also corroborated this report and therefore warned that Nigerians will experience warmer nights and hotter days. Nigerians living in the northern flank of the country are already trying to adjust to this adverse weather condition. In some parts, the heat of the sun is reportedly felt as early as 7am; experts have warned that Nigerians should avoid long exposure to the sun.

But in a clime where many of its citizens are subsistent farmers who work manually and spend endless hours in their farms to either till the land or harvest their crops, such warnings are easily ignored. Effects of being exposed to the sun for a long time should rather be explained to them; so that they would limit the time they spend outside.

Similarly, vendors hawking sundry articles on busy Nigerian roads spend their days under the sun. The advice here is that they should spend sometimes under shades to reduce impacts of the sun on their skins.

It is advisable to stay under shades of trees, bathe regularly and enough water should be taken in order to prevent dehydration during this period. Also, virtually all fruits are good for the body in times like this, but fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens, berries, coconut water, water melon are among the best, even spicy pepper is recommended because it can stimulate heat receptors in the mouth that enhances circulation which produces sweat that cools down the body. Also, frequent checks of the body’s blood pressure is recommended. Sun screen and sun lotion with solar protection can be of help to the eyes and the body respectively.

On the other hand alcoholic drinks and beverages such as spirits, coffee, caffeinated drinks, sodas and also smoking of tobacco are more dangerous to the body during this period.

But the solution to adverse effects of global warming still remains the sustained tree planting culture. With desert encroachment in some parts of the northern part of the country resulting in depleted vegetation and wind erosion, this is the inevitable action to take in other to stay alive.

Some Nigerians have surprisingly expressed ignorance about the much talked about global warming as the cause of this adverse weather condition. That is why government should sensitize the public on the need to preserve their environment and avoid indiscriminate logging, bush burning and the use of firewood as fuel for cooking. And in fact all such practices that negatively impact on environment must be discontinued.