As Africans we generally do not find heat remarkable, but this October is an exception. We are realiably informed that the current temperatures (record high on Monday at 42 degrees Celcius) were last recorded in 1954!
I don’t remember what I was doing in 1954 (hehehe) when the last heat wave hit, but I know that when we were children we didn’t take the heat too seriously.
Although we didn’t have swimming pools in our back yards, or water slides, we did have the big community pool where we could meet friends and splash about with our neighbours.
Alternatively we could stay home and fill up a big tin bath or run around naked in the spray from a fountain or sprinkler. Such innocent fun and simple problem solving.
Today life has become more complicated. We are told that even black people need sunscreen and reports of abuse make us hesitant to let our kids take off their clothes outside.
I overhead a Canadian woman this week say she couldn’t understand why, if some countries suspend school because it’s too cold, we here shouldn’t suspend school because it’s too hot. Hmm . . . anyone want to second that?
Here are some ways to cope with the season and ensure that your memories of this historical time are good ones.
The most obvious thing is to drink more fluids, regardless of your levels of activity.
For the record, we are referring to non-alcoholic beverages here. In fact, you should reduce the amount of liquids with high levels of alcohol or sugar.
These will cause you to lose more body fluid. So less fizzy drink and beer, folks, and more good old-fashioned amanzi (water)!
Water is life, after all.
While you are gulping down water, it’s tempting to try and get it as cold as possible, but this can cause stomach cramps, so go easy on the ice-cold aspect.
Luckily for us we have an automatic mechanism for ensuring our drinks never quite freeze, it’s called Zesa. By effectively employing power cuts they save us from stomach cramps. We are so grateful!
While we are on the subject of water, getting wet is also a good way of avoiding heat-related illnesses. If you are too modest to run around naked in the spray, or if you are a victim of the city’s water cuts, try running cool water over pulse points in your wrists and splashing your face or temples to lower your body temperature.
Good news for couch potatoes is that you should cut down on the amount of exercise during a heat wave.
If you do exercise ensure you drink two to four glasses of water every hour. Sports drinks can help replace lost salt and minerals.
Food, of course is my solution to most problems. My number one choice for staying cool in the heat is watermelon.
Sweet, sticky and oh so cooling, watermelon is guaranteed to give you some temporary relief.
But have you ever tried eating it in the bath? Like mangoes, big chunks of watermelon seem even better consumed while wallowing in a cool pool or bath.
Cucumbers are also a great way to keep cool. Full of water and mild in flavour they are ideal for all age groups.
You can also make cucumber soups which can be served cold. Greeks use cucumber as the main ingredient in a delicious dish called tzatziki and you can dip raw vegetables such as carrots in this.
We should all be eating more lightly in a heat wave.
Multiple small meals ask less of your body than a big, heavy one.
Also spicy and chilli foods that cause you to sweat are great because the evaporation process has a cooling effect.
Ever wondered why people in hot countries like India consume such spicy food? Now you know.
On a more sombre note, a heatwave needs to be taken seriously.
According to media reports, the heat has this week caused at least one death and several people have had to be hospitalised with heat- related conditions.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, get help — particularly if the person involved is an older person or a very young child:
If you stop sweating
Hot, red skin
Rapid, weak pulse
Rapid, shallow breathing
While you are waiting for help, keep the patient in the shade or in a cool spot indoors. Cool the body by wrapping in wet sheets or towels and fan it. If possible, get the person to sip some cool water.
Finally folks, let’s talk about the heatwave with our families. Discussing the risks and making sure everyone knows what to do in the places where they spend time can help prevent a crisis.
Preparation reduces fear and anxiety, so let’s make a plan.
Sources: www.newser.com; www.howstuffworks.com; www.zbc.co.zw; www.zimdiaspora.com ; www.allzimbabwe.com www.disastercentre.com
Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to email@example.com. Follow Thembe on www.twitter/localdrummer