After a few days of a slight “cooling”, very high temperatures return to the Czech Republic on Saturday. In some places, the thermometer may reach 37 °C. Doctors are urging caution. Heatstroke, heatstroke or dehydration bring thousands of patients to their surgeries every summer.
“Especially those who are vulnerable, meaning chronically ill or very young children, are at risk of dehydration. The fundamental rule is to adapt fluid intake to the fact that we sweat more,” says Michal Vrablík, a doctor at the General University Hospital in Prague.
“In the Czech Republic, the popular liquid – beer – is of course less suitable because of its alcohol content. However, non-alcoholic beer can be used,” Vrablík mentions the drinking regime.
“Alcohol dehydrates the body and paradoxically increases the need for fluids,” adds Dr Ivo Procházka from the Association of General Practitioners of the Czech Republic.
Coffee doesn’t count
The body is also dehydrated by sugary drinks, which increase the sugar content in the urine. This “takes” water with it, causing more frequent urination and a greater feeling of thirst. According to Cyril Mucha of the Czech Medical Association. J. E. Purkyně, coffee also has a diuretic effect, but it is not included in the drinking regime. It is advisable to supplement a cup of coffee with at least the same volume of water.
“In general, about 1.5 litres of water should be drunk daily. However, if temperatures rise significantly during the hot summer months, fluid consumption should be one-third to one-half higher. Intake should be spread evenly throughout the day,” advises Mucha.
Older people in particular forget about drinking
“The feeling of thirst fades with age, so seniors are more at risk in summer. I often advise them to fill their kettle or bottle with the required amount of water each morning and set it on the table. Whenever they pass by it, they should take a little drink. Then in the evening they have a clear picture of how much they have drunk in a day,” he mentions.
A number of visitors to Lake Lhota near Prague, who were approached by the Novinek crew on the beach there, also rely on cold drinks to refresh themselves in the tropics. “I’ll have a cold beer here, it’s refreshing, but you can’t overdo it,” says one of the older visitors to the area.
“How do I refresh myself? I go somewhere with shade. And with a drink. But I have some health problems now, so I drink a lot of tea and water, not much alcohol,” mentions another visitor.
Those who don’t have the opportunity to go to the swimming pool can try a quick refreshment under a cold shower at home. You can cool off with a mist of water from refreshments on the streets of some cities. There are currently over thirty of them in Prague alone.
“In principle, it is recommended, especially for the vulnerable, to protect yourself, not to go outside during the hottest hours of the day and to postpone running errands in hot city centres. We often see our elderly fellow citizens choosing that 12th hour and travelling by tram, so it really bears repeating – put it off, you won’t miss anything,” Dr Vrablik urges them.
Air conditioning in moderation
“Because we live in a block of flats on the top floor, we cool down under the fan at home,” mentions another common way of coping with the heat, as one of the visitors to Lake Lhota mentions. “When the temperatures are high, I’m usually in the shade. And when I’m at work, it’s with air conditioning,” adds another woman on the sandy beach.
But even air conditioners and stand fans carry health risks.
“The most at risk, of course, is the respiratory tract, which can suffer under the influence of air conditioning and increase its susceptibility to infections. After all, untreated air conditioning can itself be a source of infection,” warns doctor Vrablík. When bacteria and mould get into the air from it, they can cause respiratory problems including allergies, asthma or bronchitis.
But the problem is mainly temperature “shocks”, i.e. sudden transitions from heated to heavily air-conditioned rooms. These should be avoided especially by people with circulatory or metabolic diseases.
“The air conditioning setting in the initial phase should not exceed a five-degree difference. Of course, if we are in an air-conditioned room for a longer period of time, we can adjust the temperature according to our comfort,” adds a doctor from the Heart in the Head project, which tries to educate the public about the issue of circulatory diseases.
It is not uncommon to catch a cold (the so-called air-conditioning cold or summer cold), which is otherwise associated more with the winter season. Low humidity in air-conditioned rooms can also cause dehydration.
From the swimming pool to the doctor’s office
Heatwaves regularly bring thousands of people into doctors’ surgeries during the summer months. For example, VZP, the largest domestic health insurer, treated the most patients in the past five years for health problems caused by hot weather, according to Viktoria Plívová, a spokeswoman for the insurer.
Nearly 1,400 of them had to be acutely hospitalized, more than 50 of them. It cost the insurance company more than CZK 2.5 million.
People were brought to the clinics mainly by heat stroke, heat exhaustion caused by loss of minerals or lack of fluids, or swelling from the heat. People with heart disease or high blood pressure are at risk.
Older people over 65, chronically ill or asthmatic people, as well as young children under 4 years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women are also at greater risk.
However, hot weather can cause difficulties for anyone, even otherwise healthy individuals. So everyone should follow the basic recommendations for their own sake: use protective headgear, sunglasses and good quality sunscreen. It is also advisable to limit physical activity, sports and heavy meals and to increase the aforementioned fluid intake.