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HeatFor many doctors such as myself, summer means scores of patients lining our clinics – suffering from literally everything under the sun – be it food poisoning, sunburn or heatstroke.

A case in point is Samina, an otherwise healthy young mother of two school going children. She came to me complaining of ragged breathing; she said, “I feel dizzy and lightheaded all the time, I can’t breathe and my mouth tastes like cotton!” I asked her what she had been doing earlier that day and she replied, “I was out playing cricket with the boys.”

The cause of her condition? Hyperthermia. I told her: “You are suffering from heatstroke due to being out in the sun for too long. Go home and relax with a glass of lemonade topped with rock salt; it tastes good and it will replenish the vital electrolytes and minerals you lost in the heat, and you will be back to your usual energetic self in no time.”

Despite soaring temperatures, summer picnics at farmhouses and beaches are popular activities. Unfortunately, most of the time, it is food poisoning that becomes the memorable part of the event.

Last June I treated a family who had come down with a nasty stomach bug. Sania (the mother) was adamant that she had taken every precaution possible: “We used mineral water, I made the kids wash before eating and we only ate simple food. I don’t understand why we fell ill!”

I explained that “Unclean water and spicy food are not the only culprits behind food poisoning. If you leave dairy products unrefrigerated for more than an hour in summer, food-borne bacteria develop, causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Next time, discard food left uncovered in the sun!”

Therefore, while the summer holidays can be a lot of fun, remember to take these simple precautions and you will be fine. And don’t forget to drink a lot of water!

– Dr Mubashara Khan
The writer is a nutritionist.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 25, 2014.