Advisories issued to citizens, education institutions as heatwave envelops country – Pakistan

• NIH, health ministry suggest measures to prevent sunstroke, other heat-related ailments
• Twin cities record 43°C

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and National Institute of Health (NIH) have issued separate advisories for people and educational institutions, outlining measures to be taken to protect oneself from the effects of the prevailing heatwave in the country as some regions recording temperatures of 50°C.

According to the Met Office, the temperature recorded in Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Saturday was 43°C, with the heatwave to continue till May 18.

The objective of the advisories is to sensitise relevant authorities and educational institutions to take appropriate actions for preparedness and response to incidents of heatstroke in their respective areas.

The NIH advisory has recommended steps for educational institutions to mitigate the effects of extreme heat on students, reduce the frequency of heat-related illnesses and support schools to prepare for and manage risks associated with extreme hot weather.

“Children and young people are more susceptible to heat stress and therefore schools must have measures in place to prepare for and manage the risks associated with extreme hot weather,” the advisory stated.

It emphasized a number of actions that schools could take to help protect students from heat-related illnesses.

“Physically separating students from heat by keeping them in a cool indoor environment is the most effective way of preventing heat-associated illnesses while utilizing indoor space for activities during extreme heat is also an ideal way of protecting students,” the advisory said, adding that artificial shading such as canopies, tents, sails and umbrellas should be used to cover outdoor play areas.

The advisory also urged educational institutions to increase the number of water coolers.

“Increased access to drinking water can help students stay hydrated,” the advisory said, adding that it should be ensured that electric fans were in working condition.

The advisory also called for practicing acclimatization as during this period changes occurred as the body adapted to the stress of repeated exposure to heat.

“There is strong evidence that acclimatization can reduce heat injuries,” it added.

Meanwhile, the NHS ministry issued its own advisory to health-related agencies, asking them to take timely and appropriate measures to prevent heat/sunstroke.

On the other hand, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel has suggested coordinated and effective steps to protect people’s lives from diseases.

“Concrete steps are being taken to improve the performance of the health sector,” he said.

According to the NHS ministry’s advisory, heatstroke is a medical condition that can be fatal if not treated in time.

“Symptoms include hot and dry skin, weakness or lethargy, fever, headache and rapid heartbeat. If heat stroke is not treated properly, it can cause death, damage organs or lead to disability,” the advisory said. Infants, citizens over 65 years, patients with diabetes and high blood pressure, athletes and outdoor workers are at high risk of heat stroke, it added.

The advisory suggested drinking more water during hot weather, avoid going directly into sunlight in hot humid weather or high temperature places, cover one’s head with a hat and wear light colored loose clothes.

“People working directly under sunlight should consume plenty of water,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Met Office has said most parts of the country are likely to remain in the grip of the heatwave, however, slight relief was expected in some places between May 14 and 18th.

Dust-storms/gusty winds and rain-thunderstorms are expected in scattered places of the country. Day temperatures are likely to rise again from May 18.

The possible impact of the prevailing hot and dry weather may include water stress on reservoirs, crops, vegetables and orchards while high temperature may lead to increase in the use of energy and water.

Blazing sun and humidity in the twin cities forced people to stay indoors on Saturday.

The scorching heat had its effects on dozens of people who were admitted to hospitals after they fainted in the heat. Doctors have advised people to avoid food available at road side stalls.

They said people should use boiled water to avoid diarrhea or other foods related to the summer season, adding that water intake should also increase.

Electricity load shedding

Frequent powercuts were the order of the day in some areas of the garrison city.

Many localities faced six to eight hours of power loadshedding, especially people living around the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport. The affected areas include Faisal and Gulraiz colonies. Complaints of electricity suspension were also received from people living in Saddar and Raja Bazaar.

“In hot weather, we spent Thursday night without electricity from 2am to 11am and no one in Iesco attended our calls,” said Mohammad Naseem, a resident of Faisal Colony.

Many people said their daily routine had been disturbed as they could not sleep in the night and had to bear the burnt of the hot weather during the day.

When contacted, a senior Iesco Rawalpindi Division official said in the hot weather, use of electricity increased manifold and due to this, transformers developed faults, which took time to replace.

He said there were no power cuts and electricity suspensions occurred due to faults.

Even District Headquarters Hospital remained without electricity on the night between Friday and Saturday.

Most patients had to be shifted to the hospital’s lawns.

When contacted, Rawalpindi Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Umer said there was an issue of short circuiting in the hospital, which was later resolved by the management.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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