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July 22, 2017

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Heat-related trauma at highest level in years

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- As many as 451 people consulted physicians after suffering from heat-related trauma within the last two weeks, said the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Health Promotion Administration (HPA) yesterday when it released a report on this year's heat-related trauma.

Almost all areas in Taiwan have been experiencing extremely hot weather at roughly 34 degrees Celsius to a little over 37 degrees in July. According to the HPA, 451 people visited emergency rooms from July 1 to July 14; if the temperature continues to rise, there may be over 1,000 people going to the ER because of heat-related trauma by the end of July — a new record for the past 10 years.

HPA researcher Chen Miao-hsin listed the four major types of heat trauma: heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. An average of 32 people report to hospitals each day due to one of the said types of heat-related trauma, said Chen.

The HPA's statistics on heat injury cases from previous years are as follow: 375 people suffered from heat trauma in July, 2011, 536 in July, 2012, and 508 in 2013.

"People are risking their lives if they are under the sun for too long, especially without any protection," said former Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine Chairman Chen Wei-gung (陳維恭). People are advised not to stay in the sun for over four hours when the temperature is over 35 degrees Celsius; overstaying the four-hour limit may lead to a higher possibility of suffering from heat stroke and even heat exhaustion, the latter including symptoms of heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse.

Many people believe that consuming enough water during outdoor activities will be enough protection against the heat, but actually the sunshine contains risks as it can increase body temperature and interfere with the brainstem's thermoregulation abilities, said Chen. "When the thermoregulation is thrown off balance, one may suffer from heat exhaustion; the damage may even reach multiple organs and is incurable," said Chen.

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