The Centre on Sunday advised states and Union Territories to review their healthcare preparedness and ensure the availability of all essential medicines to prevent heat-related illnesses, the Hindustan Times reported.

Several parts of the country have been scorching under a heatwave since last week. The India Meteorological Department has said that the average maximum temperature in April for North West and Central India was the highest in 122 years. The country had also witnessed the hottest March in 122 years since the weather department started maintaining records.

In May too, the temperatures are expected to remain above normal in West Central and North-West India. However, the current spell of heatwave in Delhi and some other parts of North India is likely to abate on Monday.

For the plains, a heatwave is declared when the maximum temperature goes up to 40 degrees Celsius or more and is at least 4.5 degrees above normal. A severe heatwave is when the normal temperature is 6.5 degrees Celsius more than the normal.

In a letter, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday said that the health departments of all states and Union Territories should sensitise medical officers, health staff, and grass-root level workers on heat-related illnesses.

“Health facility preparedness must be reviewed for the availability of adequate quantities of essential medicines, IV [intravenous] fluids, ice packs, ORS [oral rehydration solutions] and all necessary equipment,” Bhushan wrote, according to Hindustan Times. “Availability of sufficient drinking water at all health facilities and continued functioning of cooling appliances in critical areas must be ensured.”

He also urged health departments to ensure an uninterrupted power supply for cooling appliances at healthcare facilities. Bhushan suggested the use of solar panels wherever feasible. Power cuts have been reported widely across the country due to a shortage of coal stocks at thermal power plants. The rise in temperature has also increased the demand for power.

Dos and Don’ts

The Centre has also issued an advisory for the public to follow as temperatures soar across the country. Here are certain guidelines recommended:

  • Drink sufficient water whenever possible, even if you are not thirsty. Thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
  • Carry drinking water when travelling.
  • Use oral rehydration solution and consume homemade drinks like lemon water, buttermilk/lassi, fruit juices with some added salt.
  • Wear thin loose, cotton garments preferably light coloured.
  • Cover your head: use umbrella, hat, cap, towel and other traditional headgears during exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Avoid getting out in the sun, especially between l2:00 noon and 03:00 pm.
  • Avoid strenuous activities when outside in the afternoon.
  • Do not go out barefoot.
  • Avoid cooking during peak summer hours. Open doors and windows to ventilate cooking area adequately.
  • Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks or drinks with large amounts of sugar- as these actually lead to loss of more body fluid or may cause stomach cramps.
  • Provide cool drinking water at work place and remind them to drink a cup of water every 2O minutes or more frequently to stay hydrated.
  • Caution workers to avoid direct sunlight.
  • Provide shaded work area for workers. Temporary shelter can be created at work site.
  • Watch out for symptoms of heat stress, which include: dizziness or fainting, extreme thirst, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat and decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine.
  • If you or others feel unwell and experience any of above symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place and drink liquids. Water is best.
  • Call 108/102 immediatety if you find someone with high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating.