Hospitals see spike in heat-related cases

  • Heatwaves pose a significant health risk, with the most concerning being heatstroke

Naman Suri
First Published3 May 2024
If proper precautions aren't taken and early signs and symptoms aren't addressed immediately, the number of heat-related cases will continue to rise, experts say.
If proper precautions aren’t taken and early signs and symptoms aren’t addressed immediately, the number of heat-related cases will continue to rise, experts say.

Hospitals across India are seeing an unprecedented surge in patients suffering from heat-related illnesses, with experts warning that the numbers could increase in the coming days as severe heatwaves continue to sweep through the country.

“In the current scenario, the number of cases is on the rise. If proper precautions aren't taken and early signs and symptoms aren't addressed immediately, the number of cases will continue to rise,” said Brunda MS, consultant - internal medicine, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru. 

The India Meteorological Department has forecast a higher-than-usual number of heatwave days in May across several states. A heatwave occurs when a rise in air temperature becomes potentially fatal for those exposed to it—specifically when maximum temperatures are at least 4.5 degrees Celsius above normal.

Also Read: Power prices on exchanges rise as soaring temperatures lift demand

On Thursday, an intense heatwave swept through eastern India and parts of the southern peninsular region, according to the weather bureau. Parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and coastal Andhra Pradesh recorded temperatures above the 44-degree Celsius mark.

Also read: Mint Primer: Red hot prices and other effects of the heatwave

On an average, 50% of the patients admitted in Aster Whitefield Hospital, Bengaluru, daily are suffering from heat-related issues, said Basavaraj S Kumbar, consultant- internal medicine. 

In North India, where high temperatures are typical during this time of the year, hospitals have found the rise in cases particularly alarming, amid fears the cases may further increase in small cities and towns.

“We are anticipating a significant rise in patients due to heat waves related illnesses, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where patients generally lack understanding of the importance of keeping themselves hydrated during this season,” said Shuchin Bajaj, Internal Medicine, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals. 

Looping, a common term for excessive sweating, skin infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroenteritis and exacerbation of underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular issues are the typical illnesses seen during a heatwave, also known locally as loo.  

“Heatwaves pose a significant health risk, leading to a surge in patients suffering from a variety of conditions. The most concerning is heatstroke, a life-threatening emergency marked by high fever, confusion, and even seizures. Dehydration is another common culprit,” Bajaj added.

Meenakshi Jain, director, internal medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj, believes changes in patient numbers are likely to vary depending on the duration and intensity of the heat wave, as well as regional factors such as access to cooling centers and public health initiatives.

“As a doctor, I've observed a marked increase in cases during these periods, particularly with conditions such as heatstroke and dehydration. These conditions are especially prevalent among vulnerable populations, including the elderly, young children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions,” Jain added.

Action plan

With heatwaves sweeping the country, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is surveilling all states to try and gauge the impact on health, Mint earlier reported quoting two officials aware of the matter.

The health ministry has trained district officials to bring to notice any health complications arising from extreme heat conditions.

The NCDC has asked states to organize a task force meeting for updating and approving a heat-health action plan, including standard operating procedures for heatwaves.

The health action plan prepared will be incorporated in the State Action Plan for Climate Change and Human Health (SAPCCHH) and sent to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) or Relief Commissioner Department.

Meanwhile, hospitals such as Gurugram-based Paras Hospital, which recently announced an investment of 250 crore to augment its bed capacity, are prepared to scale resources.

“We are ready to scale resources as required to ensure continued high-quality care. We advise precautions against the heat, and urge people to seek medical attention promptly if they experience any heat-related symptoms,” added Ritesh Yadav, senior consultant, internal Medicine, Paras Health.

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