It’s that time of the year when most, if not all, people complain about the uncomfortable scorching heat.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the period between March to May marks the hot dry season in the Philippines. During this season, the temperature and humidity reach their maximum level, resulting to a high apparent temperatures or high heat index.

Heat index (human discomfort index) is a measure of what humans perceive or feel as the temperature affecting the body. Simply put, it is the “feels like” temperature or how hot it really feels outside when the relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. The higher the heat index, the more uncomfortable people can get. However, some people may experience even worse than discomfort; they may suffer from heat-related illnesses.

Here are the potential health-related illnesses that one may experience when the heat index reaches the following temperatures, according to PAGASA:

27°C to 32°C – Caution

  • Fatigue is possible with prolonged exposure and activity.
  • Continuing activity could result in heat cramps.


32°C to 41°C – Extreme Caution

  • Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are possible.
  • Continuing activity could result in heat stroke.


41°C to 54°C – Danger

  • Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely.
  • Heat stroke is probable with continued activity.


Over 54°C – Extreme Danger

  • Heat stroke is imminent.


Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is not able to properly cool itself after prolonged exposure to high temperature and humidity.

While the body can usually adapt to high temperatures by sweat production and evaporation, this adaptive mechanism is not as effective when the temperature and humidity in the environment are very high at the same time. On a hot, humid day, less evaporation of sweat occurs, diminishing the body's ability to cool itself. And without fast treatment, this can lead to serious health problems.

The most common heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat cramps is the mildest form of heat-related illness characterized by painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. This usually results from too much loss of water and salt due to excessive sweating.

Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that can develop into heatstroke if left untreated. It occurs when excessive sweating in a hot environment reduces the blood volume. The common warning signs may include paleness and sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps (usually in the abdomen, arms or legs), headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, or fainting.

Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat-related illness. It is considered a medical emergency and requires urgent attention. With heatstroke, the core body temperature rises above 40.5 °C, and the body’s internal systems start to shut down. A person with heatstroke will experience central nervous system changes – such as delirium, coma, and seizures – vital organ damage, and even death if urgent medical care is not given.


Heat-related illnesses are preventable. Here are some general guidelines to protect yourself and your family from any heat-related illness this hot dry season:

Keep Your Body Cool

  • Drink more water than usual. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Avoid tea, coffee, soda, and other sugary drinks as they can make dehydration worse.
  • Wear breathable, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothes. A loose clothing allows air to circulate over your skin while a light-colored one helps reflect sunlight.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down. A cold shower does wonders in carrying off excess body heat.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during extremely hot hours. Schedule workouts and other heavy activities early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the temperature is cooler.
  • Protect against sunburn. Sunburn affects the body's ability to cool itself. When going outdoors for long periods, wear a wide-brimmed hat and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours. Reapply more often if you're swimming or sweating.


Keep Your Home Cool

  • Turn on air-conditioner especially when the heat is unbearable. A fan is not a reliable cooling device during an extreme heat event. If air conditioning is not available, stay in the lowest floor or coolest part of the house.
  • Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day. Open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • Use shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this is not possible, use light-colored curtains and keep them closed. Metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter.


Other Tips

  • Closely monitor high-risk individuals. Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. These people must be frequently monitored during extremely hot weather. The most at-risk for heat-related illnesses are infants and young children, elderly (65 years old and above), and people who are overweight and with chronic diseases (i.e. heart disease or high blood pressure).
  • Take extra precautions with certain medications. Some medications can affect the body's ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat. These include some antidepressants and anti-psychotic mediations, beta blockers used to treat heart conditions, and some blood pressure medicines. Talk to your physician or pharmacist to learn about any potential side effects of your medications.
  • Stay informed. Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips.


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