St. Lucians on heat stroke alert as drought conditions persist

Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Health has put the public on alert for increased risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses in light of the continuing drought conditions affecting the island.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sharon Belmar-George.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sharon Belmar-George.

Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, is a severe illness caused by the body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged physical exertion in high temperatures.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sharon Belmar-George noted that people engaged in strenuous activities, the very young, the very old, people who are ill or have underlying diseases such as heart disease or high blood pressure were most at risk of suffering from heat stroke.

“If you can, avoid being in the direct sun for an excessive period during the times of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun
is particularly hot, especially for small children who can be very active during that period,” she said, urging adults to reduce children’s exposure to direct sun and ensure that children playing outside are re-hydrated.

“As adults we should avoid alcohol during the very hot periods as much as possible,” Dr. Belmar-George added. “Also be vigilant of the elderly who may be outside.”

The normal signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: body temperature greater than 104 degrees fahrenheit; altered mental behaviour including confusion, agitation and slurred speech. The ministry said people may also develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, and their breathing may become very rapid and shallow.

“The most important thing is for us to prevent and be vigilant both for us and our family members in the very hot and dry conditions out there,” Dr. Belmar-George said.

The drought situation also forced government to declare a water emergency for all parts of the island last month. The alert is in place until July 31. It said the dry spell could last until August.

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