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Striking the healthy balance

WITH temperatures climbing, staying outdoors or in unventilated rooms for long periods is dangerous. Heat strokes often happen to sickly people who stay outdoors in the sun or in crowded unaired rooms. TCM doctors suggest avoiding exposure to the sun for long periods but some TCM patent drugs and acupressure can help as first aid if someone does succumb to sunstroke.

The body's temperature will inevitably increase in heat. Usually the human body automatically tries to lower the temperature by encouraging sweating and increasing the rate of breathing. But if the body temperature increases too quickly in a hot or unaired environment, the ability to adjust the temperature may be impaired. As well, your body could suffer an electrolyte imbalance if you fail to make up water and salt lost in sweating. This can lead to a heat stroke with symptoms like dizziness, headaches, chest pressure, vomiting, panting and unconsciousness.

TCM says that the healthy energy in human body is usually damaged in hot summers as pathogenic summer-heat and dampness fill the universe. If people stay in the sun for too long, especially if they are sickly, sunstroke is certainly possible.

Dizziness, headaches, thirstiness, severe sweating and weakness are symptoms of heat-stroke. Sufferers can quickly recover by moving to shady and airy places and replacing the water and salt that has been lost. The body temperature of a mildly affected heat-stroke patient is often over 38 degrees Celsius. Victims may also have either hot skin and red faces or cold and wet limbs and pale faces as well as dizziness and thirstiness. They can recover within hours if they are treated properly.

Severe heat-stroke, however, can be fatal if proper treatment is not delivered in time. Convulsions, unconsciousness, panting, or low blood pressure can occur. Cerebral edema and lung edema may also happen in extremely severe cases.

As most people stay in air-conditioned rooms, there are fewer heat stroke cases these days, according to Dr Chen Hao, the associate chief physician of Emergency Unit of the Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM. Still, it happens to some outdoor workers as well as people in crowded rooms or public places.

Apart from the high temperatures and the burning sun, long spells of intense work, lack of sleep, fatigue, alcohol, hunger, thirstiness and wearing tight clothes can all contribute to heat-stroke. Usually, it happens more often to the old, sickly, pregnant women, infants, people suffering from poor nutrition and cardiovascular disease patients, Chen says.

To avoid heat-stroke, Dr Chen suggests avoiding the outdoors from 11am-3pm. If you have to go out at this time, remember to carry an umbrella or hat as well as water. Loose light-colored clothes made of cotton, linen, or silk that expel heat quickly are recommended. Drink water often - don't wait until you feel thirsty. If you sweat a lot, drink some lightly salted water instead of coffee or alcohol as they will take more water out of you. Getting enough sleep, of course, helps keep your body in good shape and helps prevent heat stroke. Smelling feng you jing (a herbal oil made of mint and camphor) and eating some ren dan (TCM patent pills made of ageratum, orange peel and mint) can help relieve discomfort in the sun.

A nutritious diet with less greasy food is recommended during summer, according to Dr Chen. Foods with a high water content such as water melon, cucumber, tomato are all good choices. Other foods that help dispel pathogenic dampness in TCM including white gourd, bitter cucumber, green beans, red beans and peal barley are also recommended.

If heat stroke occurs, the patient should be moved to a shady airy place at once. Spreading some feng you jing on the forehead and the tai yang acupuncture points (the outside corners of the eyes), and eating TCM patent drugs like ren dan and huo xiang zheng qi shui (a herbal liquid made of ageratum) can help relieve the discomfort. Help the patient drink some lightly salted water. Try decreasing the body temperature by placing cold moist towels on the forehead or rubbing the body with them. If the patient faints, press the ren zhong acupuncture point (the center of the line between the nose and the mouth) hard to help them regain consciousness. If the patient suffers severe chest pressure, press hard on the nei guan acupuncture point on the anterior forearm. And take the patient to a hospital immediately if it is a serious case.

Patients who have just recovered from heat stroke usually have a weak digestive system. It is suggested that they should not drink a great amount of water quickly at one time. It is better to drink less than 300 milliliters a few times, lest it dilutes the gastric acid and causes indigestion. Stimulating foods like icy or greasy food should be avoided. First aid acupuncture points for treating summer heat strokes Tai yang

Location: At the temple, in a depression about 3 centimeters posterior to the midpoint between the lateral end of the eyebrow and the outer canthus of the eye.

Benefits: Helps relieve headaches and dizziness.

Ren zhong

Location: At the junction of the superior 1/3 and middle 2/3 of the philtrum.

Benefits: Helps patients regain consciousness.

Nei guan

Location: On the anterior forearm, 6 centimeters superior to the transverse wrist crease.

Benefits: Helps relieve chest pressure.


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