Summer is here and temperatures are starting to rise. Summer has its share of fun, with lots of delicious watermelon and frequent trips to the swimming pool. However, it also brings with it, its share of problems. Here are some that fall under neurology.
- Migraines– Migraine is a condition characterized by frequent episodes of headaches, sometimes associated with nausea or vomiting. Headaches in migraine patients are triggered or exacerbated with a number of factors, heat being one of them. It is common to have severe headache with every outing in the scorching sun. So, it is better to avoid going out during the hottest parts of day- 12 noon to 3 pm. Also, one can use umbrella to avoid direct sunlight.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)– MS is a disease that affects central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). In this disease, there is damage to the myelin sheath, the covering of the nerves. The symptoms in MS patients get worse with increased heat, as after exposure to summer heat, hot water baths, strenuous exercises, etc. The symptoms noted are blurred vision, fatigue, weakness and cognitive dysfunction. So, patients with MS should avoid heat exposure.
- Heat stroke– Heat stroke occurs if body temperature rises to abnormally high levels on exposure to heat for prolonged duration. Generally, our body tries to regulate temperature with sweating, increased thirst, etc when exposed to heat. However, these mechanisms may fail when exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods. Symptoms of heat stroke include high temperature, headache, nausea, weakness, muscle cramps, confusion, and in severe cases, unconsciousness and coma may also occur.
- Brain stroke– Exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, thereby, increasing the chances of a brain stroke. Brain stroke may lead to paralysis due to blockage of blood supply to a part of brain.
- Epilepsy– Heat can be a trigger for seizures. Some people experience an increase in seizure frequency during summer months. In children below the age of six, febrile seizures are common, where they get seizures during an episode of high fever. Also in adults, high fever can trigger an episode of seizure. There is a special type of epilepsy, where the person gets a seizure after taking hot water bath; this type of epilepsy is referred to as “hot water epilepsy”. The increase in seizure frequency may be due to loss of anti-epileptic medications through too much sweating or perspiration in hot weather.
Strategies to beat the summer heat:
- Stay indoors as much as possible, especially during the hotter parts of day,
- Use umbrella to avoid direct sunlight exposure,
- Stand in shade,
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated.