While summer is quite harsh in most parts of our country, it is a season that many rejoice as it brings along freedom from exams, long holidays, and mangoes! It is also a time when people avoid staying indoors, especially during evening-time, to beat the sweltering heat. However, we should be aware that summer activities are associated with additional health risks.
Let us take a look into the different health issues that can affect us during summer time.
Firstly, considering that children have vacation from school, usually for 2 months at a stretch, picnics are common. We tend to carry picnic baskets, which would mean that foods are subjected to the warm weather as well. This could result in contamination and spoiling of the food items due to the harsh temperatures and could lead to food poisoning. Bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli are common agents that cause food poisoning. Therefore, avoid carrying perishable food items, and if you do, make sure that they are properly insulated from the heat. Secondly, be careful of what food items you eat outside. Children especially are drawn to local food carts and the variety of fried snack items, as well as cold and sweet/candy foods. These items tend to be prepared and served in an unhygienic manner and can lead to food poisoning.
The common signs of food poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, weakness etc. Although the condition is not serious and resolves within a day or two even without treatment, it is advisable to exercise caution regarding what food items are consumed during summer season. It is always better to eat light foods in small portions multiple times a day rather than three large meals.
All of us know the importance of water and that we must consume at least 6-8 glasses each day. However, few of us tend to religiously follow this regimen. Especially in summer time, the demand for fluids in the body goes up, due to loss through sweating. Dehydration is common in hot summers as seen in our country and when taking lightly, could be life-threatening. It is mandatory to carry water when travelling/being outdoors for prolonged periods. Inculcate this habit in kids as well who tend to ignore drinking water, or prefer cold drinks over water, especially when playing outdoors. One must understand that soft drinks/cola, although are fluids, contain sweeteners and preservatives apart from chemical agents, which may temporarily quench thirst, but are harmful to the body. Tender coconut water, fruit juices, sharbats (commonly rose, khuskhus, lemon), glucose water etc. are also good options to ensure adequate intake of fluids. Such alternatives also provide the necessary electrolytes to the body.
Do not wait to get thirsty to reach for the bottle of water! Remember that if you feel thirsty, it means that the body has used up its reserve stores of fluids and needs to be replenished. And do not open the fridge as soon as you get home for cold water. It is ideal to consume water that is at room temperature, or even stored in earthen pots.
By Dr. Amit Gupte, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Wockhardt Hospitals