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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Expert tips on how to survive the heatwave

Soaring temperatures this year have come to pass with the mercury approaching 40°C in parts of Gauteng.


The relentless and sweltering heatwave that has gripped much of South Africa over the past few weeks may not let up until the El Nino phenomenon presently at play is exhausted.

In November last year, South African Weather Service (SAWS) lead scientist on long range prediction, Dr Christien Engelbrecht, forecast higher than normal temperatures.

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“Temperature-wise, the likelihood for warmer than normal conditions are high, with the highest chance over the interior regions of South Africa. There is a high chance of heat waves over the interior,” said Engelbrecht.

Soaring temperatures this year have come to pass with the mercury approaching 40°C in parts of Gauteng.

El Niño effect

The El Niño effect is a climatic phenomenon of the unusual warming of ocean surface waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

This warming can influence weather patterns across the globe, leading to environmental impacts that can lead to rainfall in some regions and drought in others while warming or cooling down mean temperatures. In South Africa, it gets hotter.

“Excessive heat can create lethargy, impact productivity and spark high levels of irritation and aggression in people,” said Dr Jonathan Redelinghuys of Medicare24.

READ MORE: World should prepare for El Nino, new record temperatures – UN

He said that it is important to self-manage accordingly.

Staying hydrated was most important. He recommended high electrolyte containing liquids like coconut water.

“Consume fewer caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks as these can have a diuretic effect, exacerbating dehydration,” he said.

“Wear light and loose clothing,” he added.

Personal hygiene essential

“Fabrics must be airy and complement the body’s natural cooling mechanisms to aid perspiration evaporation and prevent the body from excessively warming up.

“Sweat can also cause infection, he said, and advised that tight garments can trap moisture and heat – an environment ripe for infection.

“Personal hygiene is essential when it gets this hot,” said Redelinghuys. “Bath or shower regularly and use a mild soap and dry yourself thoroughly afterwards.”

This is not just a relief measure against heat, but also aids in the prevention of unwanted skin infections.

READ MORE: Weather update: Heatwave hits three provinces, get ready to sizzle until Monday

The application of talcum powder in areas that may perspire more than others was an added benefit.

A good night’s sleep becomes challenging in very hot environments.

Redelinghuys recommended wearing clothing or sleepwear to bed made from natural materials such as cotton or bamboo.

“These allow the skin to breathe and keep the body cooler by ensuring that moisture is effectively drawn away from the skin. It is conducive to a much better night’s sleep.”