Guard against heat stress, health ministry appeals

The Ministry of Health has advised people in Jamaica to take precautions against heat stress as the country continues to experience high temperatures.

Heat stress occurs when the body becomes dehydrated and is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. If left untreated, this can lead to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Symptoms include tiredness and lethargy, headache, dizziness, feeling faint, nausea, vomiting, altered mental state, muscle cramps, feeling thirsty, and urinating less often.

Director of the Emergency Disaster Management and Social Services Branch in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Nichole Dawkins-Wright, said the high temperatures combined with high humidity can cause heat-related illnesses.

“Some persons are more susceptible to these high temperatures. These persons include the elderly, persons who are overweight or obese, infants, children younger than six years of age, and persons with chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” she noted.

She encouraged persons to limit exposure to the sun especially during the middle of the day, to plan outdoor activities for the morning and evening hours when the sun’s rays are less intense, and to wear loose-fitting clothing and hats to protect the face.

Dr. Dawkins-Wright said persons should stay hydrated by drinking more fluids, and should limit or avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol.

“Drink water liberally – more water than you normally would, particularly during and after vigorous activities. When exercising, drink fluids regularly at least every 15 minutes. Wear light-coloured clothing, clothing that is made out of fabric that’s breathable, lightweight. Stay indoors. Avoid crowded areas [if possible] and ensure your homes and environments are well ventilated,” she further said.

Dr. Dawkins-Wright said children and the elderly should not be left in hot cars, and a doctor should be consulted if there are signs of confusion, dizziness, nausea, muscle swelling, heart disturbances, or a headache.

Dr Nichole Dawkins Wright. Photo Credit:

In the meantime, Director of Nutrition Services in the Ministry, Dr. Charmaine Edwards, stated that, although everyone is affected by the heat, specific groups tend to be more vulnerable.

“Just by being elderly, persons are already at risk, because there have been changes in how the body metabolises… We want to pay attention to the elderly. Certainly, they need to be getting in at least six glasses of water per day,” she said, adding that younger children should also be kept hydrated.

In the meantime, the Met Office has advised that the sweltering heat, which has seen temperatures soar to record levels, is associated with a hot spell between June and August.


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