Currently, the temperature in Malaysia is increasing and the Malaysian Meteorological Department has declared four districts in Peninsular Malaysia as Level 1 alert or yellow alert – where the daily maximum temperature will be between 35°C and 37°C for at least 3 consecutive days. The districts are Pasir Mas, Kuala Krai, Rompin and Padang Terap (15 May 2023-4.30 pm). The other districts are not affected by the current increase in temperature.
The alert can shift from yellow to orange if the daily maximum temperature is forecast to be between 37°C and 40°C for at least 3 consecutive days and to red alert when the daily maximum temperature is forecast to be beyond 40°C for at least 3 consecutive days.
Does the country need to declare an Emergency?
In the current situation, there is no need for the government to declare the situation as an Emergency. If the government declare the current situation as an Emergency, then all the government disaster machinery needs to be activated to reduce the impact of the heat waves. It is not required, as only four districts which are under yellow alert and the temperature in the rest of the country is still below 35°C. The government has already instituted measures to limit heat exposure among our school-going children by limiting their outdoor activities. The measures are adequate in the current circumstances.
What can individuals and organisations do to limit the impact of Heat Waves?
It is important that individuals need to be aware of the danger of heat waves and be able to identify the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, feeling thirsty, profuse sweating, increased body temperature, and decreased urination.
The symptoms of heat stroke faced can vary such as:
- High body temperature (usually above 40 degrees Celsius)
- Altered mental state or confusion
- Throbbing headache
- Fast heartbeat
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Red, hot and dry skin (less sweating)
- Breathing is fast and shallow
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- in Severe cases, it can result in convulsions or loss of consciousness, and even death.
Another thing individuals can do is to use the amount and colour of their urine as an indicator for signs of dehydration:
• Urine that is pale and odorless, and that there is a lot of urine is often an indication that the person’s hydration is good.
• Slightly dark yellow urine can indicate mild dehydration, and the person should drink more water.
• Medium-dark yellow urine often indicates dehydration, the person needs to drink plenty of water.
• Darker, strong-smelling urine in small amounts can be a sign of severe dehydration, so the person needs to drink plenty of water.
Organisations also need to take necessary actions to limit the effects of heat on their workers. There should be a policy and standard operating procedure (SOP) in place for workers who need to work outdoors. The workers also need to be trained to take corrective actions when needed.
Here are some steps that individuals and organisations can take to minimise the impact of heat waves.
- Make sure we drink enough water, basically, if we do outdoor activities, we must drink enough water.
- Dress appropriately: Wear loose, light and brightly coloured clothing that allows air circulation and helps sweat evaporate. Choose breathable fabric.
- Find a shady and cool environment to work and play in.
- Plan outdoor activities wisely: If you must be outdoors, schedule your activities at cooler times of the day, such as early morning or evening. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and try to find a dim area.
- Rest yourself and take regular breaks in a cool area, especially during strenuous physical activity or when working in a hot environment.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Be careful with medications: Some medications can increase the risk of heat-related illness. Consult your healthcare provider about possible side effects of your medication related to heat exposure.
- Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat advisories in your area. Take necessary precautions if heat waves or high temperatures are expected.
- Pay attention to vulnerable individuals: Pay attention to infants, young children, older adults and individuals with chronic illnesses, as they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Make sure they are adequately hydrated and have access to a cool environment.
Are we in a Climate Emergency?
It is different from what the Climate Emergency Coalition of Malaysia is proposing to the Government, which is to declare the situation as a Climate Emergency. In their proposal, they want the Government to take concrete steps to address the impact of climate change. This will involve policy and structural changes, where we move from the current carbon economy to a carbon-neutral economy and limit global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030 as stated in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is a long-term measure that the government should take. The report “The Imperative of climate action to Promote and Protect Health in Asia” published by the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia (AASSA) and Interacademy Partnership (IAP) highlighted the impact of climate change on human health. The report highlighted that there is a need for real-time and accurate data across Asia and Oceania, which requires the collection of both primary and secondary data and models with an appropriate feedback system. AASSA recommends a multi-sectorial framework to embrace a coherent approach. The health sector should be an active participant in discussions, action planning, and implementation of climate change issues in collaboration with other economic areas and activities.