herald

Saturday 22 September 2018

Hospital alert as sunburn and blackouts spike amid heatwave

Megan Powell enjoyed the weather at the Forty Foot in Sandycove
Megan Powell enjoyed the weather at the Forty Foot in Sandycove

A Dublin hospital is on heat alert after coping with a spike in patients suffering severe sunburn and blackouts due to scorching heatwave conditions.

Dr James Gray, emergency consultant at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, said doctors have had to treat patients suffering serious sunburn after failing to take proper precautions against sun rays.

"Workers and sunbathers have taken their tops off and some have suffered blistering, leading to secondary skin infection and a need for antibiotics," he told the Herald.

Doctors at the hospital have also seen an increase in patients presenting with heat exhaustion.

Some people have suffered syncopal episodes, where the heat causes them to collapse due to a blackout.

Precautions

"There has also been an increase in patients attending with constipation due to dehydration," Dr Gray said.

"Heat affects the very young and the elderly, particularly."

Patients who have pre-existing serious conditions are more prone to heat conditions, including people with diabetes and heart trouble.

Dr Gray advised people to ensure they take precautions and put on sun cream with a protection factor of 50 every two hours.

They should wear a hat in the outdoors and wraparound sunglasses, he added.

Further advice includes opting for light-coloured loose clothes covering the limbs, minimising alcohol consumption and taking regular sips of water and fluids.

"Avoid long periods in the sun and avoid sun entirely from 11am to 3pm. Take cool baths and showers," he said.

"Also food goes off faster in hot conditions, leading to food poisoning. Barbecue food, if not cooked well, leads to food poisoning too."

The severe heat has also had an effect on youngsters, and Temple Street Children's University Hospital confirmed that its emergency department has treated six children for sunburn and other heatwave-related ailments in the past week.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has called on hospital managers to act responsibly and respond to the needs of patients affected by the heatwave.

The minister's comments came as the family of a woman treated in University Hospital Limerick criticised the stiflingly hot conditions on her ward.

Sinead Johnson has been treated at the hospital since undergoing bowel surgery on June 6 last.

She been transferred to a high dependency unit, after she developed sepsis, and her son Kieran said patients and staff had to endure temperatures of 42C at one stage.

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