WITH temperatures forecast to be in excess of 34 degrees celsius until at least Wednesday, at times reaching 38 degrees, Zululanders are reminded of the necessary health and safety precautions needed to stay safe.

Owing to these hot temperatures and humid weather, the body’s ability to induce cooling through sweating is reduced.

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People and animals may suffer from hyperthermia conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion/stress, heat cramps and heat rash.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include blurred vision, dizziness, fast breathing or heart rate, fatigue, headache, light-headedness or fainting, low blood pressure, muscle aches or cramps, weakness, nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms of heatstroke can often be like those of heat exhaustion, but may also include dry skin that doesn’t sweat, balance problems, delirium (confusion or disorientation), hot flushed or very pale skin, low or high blood pressure, and seizures.

People with heatstroke can develop shock, slip into a coma, experience organ failure, or even death. If you experience symptoms of heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention.

Members of the community should exercise extra caution during the hottest parts of the day.

Drink lots of fluids (slightly salted but not caffeine or too much alcohol); avoid strenuous physical activity in these hot, humid conditions; stay in-doors or in air-conditioned or well-ventilated areas, and wear lightweight, loose-fitting or bright-coloured (cotton) clothing and apply sunscreen if out in the heat.

Most importantly, never leave children or pets in enclosed, hot spaces such as cars, and ensure they also drink appropriate fluids to avoid dehydration.

Any means of keeping your body cool in this scorching heat may help alleviate the catastrophes of this hot weather.

If your job forces you to be outside in the heat, let your body gradually acclimate to the temperatures.

Take note that SA Weather Service (SAWS) advisories are readily available on www.weathersa.co.za and through the various media platforms.

Marshall L Mdoka PhD is a senior lecturer and meteorologist; Nkosinathi Xulu is a lecturer and PhD candidate, both in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Zululand.


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