India records over 16,000 heatstroke cases, 60 deaths since 1 March

  • As the heatwave intensifies across north India, doctors are reporting a 30% increase in patients complaining of gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory illnesses. Patients are reporting with heatstroke and heat cramps-like symptoms.

Priyanka Sharma
First Published24 May 2024
On 24 May, IMD issued a warning that heatwave to severe heatwave conditions will prevail in many parts of Rajasthan, Vidarbha-Madhya Pradesh, some parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, West Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi during 24-27 May.
On 24 May, IMD issued a warning that heatwave to severe heatwave conditions will prevail in many parts of Rajasthan, Vidarbha-Madhya Pradesh, some parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, West Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi during 24-27 May.(HT)

New Delhi: India has so far recorded 60 heat-related deaths, as soaring temperatures scorch large swathes of the country.

Since 1 March, 32 people have died due to heatstroke and 28 from suspected heatstroke, with the latest two suspected deaths reported in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan's Kota on 22 May, government data showed.

Meanwhile, the country has seen 16,344 suspected heatstroke cases since 1 March this year, with 486 suspected heatstroke cases on 22 May alone.

Also Read | Heatwaves to result in production loss in heat-intensive industries

Heatstroke is a medical condition in which the body becomes overheated, potentially impairing the normal function of vital organs such as the brain, liver, and kidney and endangering life.

This data has been reported by the National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC), under the Union ministry of health and family welfare, as part of its active surveillance on heat-related illnesses under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).

Also Read: NCDC conducting pan-India surveillance as extreme heat conditions grip country

“The new suspected heatstroke cases and deaths are reported every 24 hours, which is updated by the states/UTs across the country on a centralized platform while cumulative figures are since March 1,” said a person requesting anonymity.

“Considering the present heatwave scenario prevailing across the northern and central parts of the country, the Centre has issued a fresh advisory to all states/Union territories to ensure that all hospitals must be prepared to tackle health-related illness and hospitals should have the availability of adequate quantities of essential medicines, I.V. fluids, ice packs, ORS and all necessary equipment,” a second person said, wishing not to be identified.

Queries sent to the Union health ministry spokesperson did not elicit any response.

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

On 24 May, India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a red alert, warning that heatwave to severe heatwave conditions will prevail in many parts of Rajasthan, Vidarbha-Madhya Pradesh, some parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, West Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi during 24-27 May.

Rising health-related illness 

As the heatwave intensifies across north India, doctors are reporting a 30% increase in patients complaining of gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory illnesses. Patients are reporting with heatstroke and heat cramps-like symptoms.

“Heatstroke is of increasing concern considering the rising temperature in Delhi. There is a surge in the number of heatstroke cases reporting to the emergency or OPD (outpatient department) largely with increased body temperature, lethargy, weakness and dryness of mouth," said Dr. Atul Gogia, senior consultant at the department of internal medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi. "Some patients are seen with symptoms like dullness and decreased urine output. Most are managed in emergencies with adequate hydration, measures for cooling the body temperature, keeping in cool environment and or cold sponging. Admissions are not really required as of now but...one needs to follow the measures to keep oneself cool and well-hydrated to prevent major complications,” he added.

Also Read: Doctors caution about heatstroke amid IMD warning of severe heatwave

Dr. Ajay Agarwal, director, Fortis Hospital, Noida, said: “With the rising temperatures, we have seen around a 20–30% increase in the number of people experiencing side-effects of heatwave. These days more patients are coming with muscle cramps, abdominal pain, generalized weakness, nausea, vomiting, and recurrent episodes of loose stools in our outpatient departments. These symptoms are the signs of heat exhaustion. It is recommended for individuals to take preventative measures such as drinking two to three litres of water daily, covering oneself with a head scarf or cap while moving outside, and dressing in cotton clothes." Dr Agarwal advised that the elderly and young children in particular should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun since they run the risk of becoming dehydrated and getting heatstroke.

Dr. Ramyajit Lahiri, head of emergency medicine department at Narayana Hospital, Kolkata, said that they are witnessing a 30–40% increase in patients with heat-related problems. A majority of these patients are elderly having pre-existing conditions such as chronic respiratory, heart and kidney diseases, diabetes etc. They are presenting with severe dehydration and low blood pressure.

NCDC guidelines

Meanwhile, the NCDC has issued guidelines for autopsy findings to establish heat-related deaths in the country. The researchers said that the cause of death should be certified as heatstroke or hyperthermia where the measured antemortem body temperature at the time of collapse was more than or equal to 40.6 degrees celsius (105.08 fahrenheit).

The guidelines say that deaths may also be certified as heatstroke or hyperthermia with lower body temperatures when cooling has been attempted prior to arrival at the hospital and/or when there is a clinical history of mental status changes and elevated liver and muscle enzymes.

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HomeNewsIndiaIndia records over 16,000 heatstroke cases, 60 deaths since 1 March

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