The Yomiuri ShimbunSince the end of the rainy season, midsummer heat has been hitting the country. Utmost caution must be taken against heatstroke.
On Thursday, when the temperature reached 35 C or higher at 184 locations across the nation, five people died in four prefectures, including Hokkaido, due to suspected heatstroke.
According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the number of people taken to hospitals by ambulance due to heatstroke amounted to about 5,700 across the nation over the week to July 28 — a figure triple that of the previous week. Half of the victims were elderly people.
The elderly are vulnerable to heatstroke because they are less aware of temperature changes and thirst, thus delaying proper countermeasures. It is imperative to keep in mind such things as receiving hydration early, before such symptoms as dizziness and headache appear, and keeping the indoor temperature below 28 C with the use of an air conditioner.
An index that attracts attention in connection with heatstroke countermeasures is the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT).
The WBGT is calculated by taking into account such elements as the amount of solar radiation and humidity on top of the temperature. The Environment Ministry uses WBGT to show the degree of heatstroke danger in various parts of the country on its website. When the most dangerous level requiring utmost caution is announced, people are urged to stay in cool rooms instead of going outside.
When the WBGT reaches the most dangerous level, the Japan Football Association guidelines call for not starting a match.
The WBGT can be useful when school athletic clubs decide whether to call off practice. It is advisable for individual households to pay attention to WBGT information when going out during summer vacation.
Steps for foreigners vital
Preventing heatstroke will be an important task to be tackled at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next summer.
A private weather information company on Friday morning measured the temperature at five-kilometer intervals along the women’s marathon course by driving a car along it, exactly one year ahead of the event. Temperatures higher than 30 C are said to have been recorded across the board.
The starting time for marathon events has been moved up to 6 a.m. as a heat countermeasure. The temperature measurement conducted on Friday underscored that conditions are still severe even with the early starting time. It is imperative to exercise wisdom to work out measures that will protect athletes and spectators from severe heat.
In a demonstration test conducted in July at the Tokyo venue for beach volleyball events, misting machines helped ease the heat in the area where they were installed. Folding fans, cooling packs and cold sense towels, to be dampened with water, were distributed to visitors. It is necessary to verify the results and make use of them at next year’s sports extravaganza.
In the Japanese summer, characterized by high temperatures and humidity, sweat tends not to evaporate and this increases the risk of suffering heatstroke. Preventive measures will become necessary also for foreigners who are not used to such weather conditions.
Measures to be taken when one feels ill should be communicated in multiple languages, as should the need to drink plenty of water. Outdoor security inspections of visitors’ bags should be sped up as much as possible. Such approaches should be taken in the management of Olympic and Paralympic events.