Following the scorching heat Chaitra, the last month of the Bangla calendar, Baishakh ushers in the new year. Despite the storms and rains during this period, people won’t be getting much relief from the terrible heat of the season. Just as the heat is oppressive, the humidity is high. Added to this discomfort, there are usually outbreaks of several summer-related diseases too. People should be conscious and prepared.

Summer ailments

Extreme heat can cause heatstroke (a patient can lose consciousness temporarily), heat exhaustion and rhabdomyolysis. Similarly, food and water borne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and jaundice also increases. Urinary tract infection is also common. Besides, there can be a sense of restlessness, disinterest in work, lack of concentration and even sleep disorder.

Heat exhaustion

People can experience excessive perspiration, sudden and extreme lethargy and fatigue, if staying in humid conditions for a long stretch of time. This can cause headaches and indigestion too. In such conditions, the patient has to be taken to a cooler and shady place as quickly as possible. They have to be fanned, given something cool to drink, splashed with cold water and given a sponge bath. Mostly, elderly people and people with uncontrolled high blood pressure are at risk of facing these conditions.


Sweating occurs in extreme hot weather, in some cases water and enzyme seep from muscles as well. This condition is referred to as rhabdomyolysis in the medical terminology. In this condition, the patient can experience pain all over the body or feel feeble. The colour of their urine can darken. Treatment for these patients is the same as patients of heat exhaustion. Plus, painkillers must be avoided.

Food and water borne diseases

Various diseases can spread through unhealthy foods and drinks sold openly on the street. People suffer from diseases like typhoid, jaundice, diarrhoea and cholera more during summer. Even, signs of food poisoning like vomiting, loose motion, fever and headache, can also be noticed. Digestive issues occur at this time every year. Multiplicity of patients suffering from digestive diseases has been noticed in recent times. So, awareness is important.

In case of typhoid, the patient can experience severe fever along with constipation or loose motion. The treatment in such conditions could vary according to the symptoms. A person suffering from jaundice usually experiences fever and stomach ache along with yellowish urine. And, the patient feels extremely weak. Under such circumstances, quick treatment must be given according to a physician’s advice. If anyone experiences stomach ache, vomiting or loose motion within 48 to 72 hours of eating a specific food, it indicates food poisoning.

If faced with vomiting and diarrhoea oral saline along with adequate amount of other liquid food must be taken. Paracetamol can be taken in case of headache or fever. However, a physician must be contacted if the body temperature is high or it continues for more than three to four days at a stretch. It is discouraged to take antibiotics on one’s own, without doctor’s prescription. If the doctor prescribes, it should be consumed at precise time gap, as advised. The antibiotic cannot be stopped either, until the physician advises.

Water and salt deficiency

Essential water and salt can be drained from the body not only due to diarrhoea or vomit but also for excessive sweating. Physical weakness is the major sign behind this condition. So, it is advised to take water, saline and other liquids right away after feeling weak for the excessive heat. A little salt can be added to lemon juice.

Urinary tract infection

Many do not drink the amount of water their body requires. This happens most in cases of women. There is a tendency among many women to go without urinating for a long time while outside of the home because of the condition of public washrooms. They even drink less water to avoid trips to the public washrooms. As a result they contract urinary tract infection. Signs such as burning sensation while urinating, pain in lower abdomen, disruption in normal urinary flow as well as feeling feverish can be noticed in case of urinary tract infection. A physician has to be consulted and medicines should be consumed according to the doctor’s advice, if any such symptoms are noticed.

What to do for disease prevention

A healthy lifestyle is a prerequisite to good health. Adequate water and liquids must be consumed. Oral saline could be drunk too. Seasonal fresh fruits must be consumed as well. Warm and humid conditions must be avoided as much as possible. It is better not to go out in the scorching sun without necessity, especially not with the children and the elderly. It is advised to try remaining in the shade when outside. Water and light foods should be carried along while going outside. One should also use sunglasses and umbrellas. If possible avoiding plastic water bottles is better. Most of all, it would be unwise to eat any type of food prepared or stored in an unhealthy setup.

People should also be alert at home. Hands must be washed and sanitised properly before preparing and serving food. Tools and utensils used for food preparation as well as the place where the food is being prepared must be clean too. The food must be stored in precise temperature as well. It Care must be taken so that children don’t lick their unwashed hands. Some exercises can also be beneficial before sunrise or after sunset. To avoid the sun-damage to the skins sunscreens must be applied at least 15 minutes prior to going out in the sun. And, it is better to wear full-sleeves clothes or full-length pants while going out.

Special cases

For some people the limit of water and salt intake is fixed (such as patients of high blood pressure and long-term kidney diseases). Some have restrictions on glucose intake (such as diabetes patients). However, the restrictions can be relaxed a bit during the scorching heat of summer. Anyone can fall sick all of a sudden, if water and salt are drained away from the body along with sweat. If that happens, little bit of oral saline can be taken. Diabetes patients can even drink glucose-water let alone saline water in such cases. Physicians can be consulted in the case of long-term kidney patients or heart patients.

* Dr Md Motlabur Rahman is Associate Professor, Medicine Department, Dhaka Medical College and Hospital

* This article appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Nourin Ahmed Monisha