Take precautions on deadly heat wave

HARARE - Weather forecasters are warning that a blistering heat wave is starting to bake Zimbabwe and will continue until early next week.

The Zimbabwe Meteorological Department says the high temperatures are expected to continue until Tuesday, affecting most low-lying areas such as Kariba, Beitbridge, Binga, Chiredzi, Triangle, Zvishavane that are expected to record up to 45 degrees Celsius.

It’s easy for those who are young and fit to shake off the unyielding heat wave as a mere inconvenience.

But for the elderly, for the young and for our pets, the weather is potentially far more than annoying or miserable — it can be deadly.

Everyone must start taking proper precautions. Within minutes on a hot day, temperatures can shoot to dangerous levels.

The Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has warned that the sweltering conditions can be managed by drinking more fluids. But minister Parirenyatwa has cautioned that fluids with caffeine, alcohol and high-sugar content can be counter-productive, since they have dehydrating effects on the body.

Health officials also say that while fans can make the heat easier to endure, they do not necessarily prevent heat-related illnesses — taking a cold shower or bath are better ideas.

And people should stay indoors as much as possible if they are not able to physically endure the pounding heat. Heath experts say symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are dizziness, vomiting, muscle cramps, headaches, flushed skin or excessive sweating.

Everyone must note the following heat wave tips: staying well-hydrated by drinking a lot of water, keeping a close eye on babies, the elderly and children and ensuring they stay well-hydrated, ensuring pets have a cool place to relax and cool clean water to drink as well.

Everyone must try to stay out of direct sunlight, wear light clothing and use sunscreen. Experts also advise that everyone should limit participation in outdoor activities.

Do not leave children and pets in a vehicle, even with a window open. A more organised effort is needed to reach out to vulnerable groups, mostly the elderly, the malnourished, children and manual labourers.

Public announcements must be made on radio, TV and social networking sites about this potentially deadly heat wave.

Hospitals must be put on high alert to handle emergencies. In the interim, high-risk areas should be mapped and monitored, and uninterrupted power and water provided to sensitive zones like hospitals.

Above all, be sure to check on anyone — a family member, a friend, a neighbour — who might be in a particularly vulnerable situation.

Flippant assumptions about the heat are not a joking matter; they can cost lives.

 

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