Summer in the city

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The sweltering heat and stinging sun of summer in Ho Chi Minh City can lead to heat stroke, sun stroke, dehydration, and chronic fatigue syndrome, according to doctor Dao Tran Thai from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

The inclement hot and dry weather HCMC has been experiencing lately has put us all at risk of dehydration, says Dr. Thai. Dehydration is more likely to occur because we are sweating more and thus our bodies are losing more water. If we're dehydrated, our body is unable to function properly. We lose our ability to detoxicate the body and our immune system also suffers. In terms of immediate effects, you might feel tired or ill, have bad headaches and experience depression and mental slowness. To avoid this, drink two liters of water everyday.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as CFS, is much more common in the hot summer months, Dr. Thai says. People suffering from CFS often feel tired for no reason, even after a good night sleep. They think slowly and don't like to work. Stress is closely related to CFS because it can both cause the problem and also be a symptom. Generally, our physical and mental energy levels are much lower when we are hot.

Dr. Thai advises that you should limit the time you spend in the sun, particularly in the hottest hours between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you have to go out or work at that time, you should protect your body carefully by wearing long clothing, a hat, a facemask and gloves. Besides drinking two liters of water every day, you should limit the amount of sweet and fatty foods you take in, as both of these generate heat inside the body. You should eat more vegetables and fruits, especially vitamin rich food including oranges and lemons.

Dehydration is also the cause of heat stroke, which occurs when high body temperatures begin to affect the nervous system. Heat stroke is a fatal disease if it is not properly and promptly treated. Your body frequently generates heat and releases it through your skin. But if you get too hot, particularly in very humid weather, your body temperature can rise as high as 41°C, at which point it is very hard for your body to release the heat. The symptoms for heat stroke become serious then. Your body temperature continues to rise, but you can't sweat to release the heat. You become intensely fatigued and your skin becomes hot, red and dry. Your muscles weaken, a headache sets in and you have difficulty breathing along with heart palpitations.

Similarly, sun stroke can be caused by exposure to the sunlight for a long time. Headaches, profuse sweating, red face, slow mental capacities and difficulty breathing are all common symptoms of sun stroke. Some sun stroke patients have even fallen into comas.

Dr. Thai thus advises that you should avoid vigorous physical activities on hot and humid days and most importantly stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water and avoid alcohol and tea, both of which may lead to dehydration.

And you should take long breaks from work, wear hats and light colored and thin clothes outside.

According to the herbalist Dinh Cong Bay, a sun stroke or heat stroke patient should first be taken out of the sunlight and the heat. He/she should be allowed to relax in an airy place. Their clothing should be loosened and excessive layers should be taken off. Apply a cold-water towel on his/her brow, the nape of the neck and armpit. A bath or shower, or even sponge bath, is necessary to clean his/her whole body to reduce the body temperature. Monitor the patient until the temperature drops to 38°C. Give the patient water or tea water accompanied with 8g of sugar and 1g of salt. If the patient loses consciousness, we should take him/her to the nearest medical clinic for immediate treatment.

If the patient has light heat stroke, treat them with the following remedies:

"¢ Stir 20g of tapioca powder in boiled but cool water, then add a little sugar. The patient can drink this two or three times a day.

"¢ Blend 500g or 800g of deseeded watermelon flesh into a juice and drink this three times a day.

"¢ Peel 150g of winter melon (or white gourd) and blend into a juice to drink twice a day.

"¢ Cook 100g of rice with 500ml of water, 50g of green peas, one fresh lotus leaf, tapioca powder, and some leaves of fresh holy basil with 100g of minced pork.

"¢ Cut one fresh lotus leaf into small pieces, then cook with 500ml of water until the water is 200ml. Keep its water and throw away the residue. Add 100g of rice in the water to cook a porridge, and add sugar candy for a meal.

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