The Ministry of Health advises people all over the country, especially children and the elderly, to be careful when the weather is hot as heat-related illnesses can cause medical emergencies and even death.

The ministry issued a press release on April 10 stating that climate change has made Cambodia increasingly prone to extreme heat waves along with many other countries in the region and around the world.

It reminded the public that extremely hot weather can make people ill and can even kill them if their body’s ability to cool off via its natural processes such as sweating is not sufficient to keep their internal temperature at a safe level.

Symptoms of heat stress or heat-related illness may include excessive sweating, extreme exhaustion, muscle cramps, extreme fatigue, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, fainting, rapid or weak pulse and stroke.

“We ask people to take some simple precautions, such as maintaining adequate hydration of the body by drinking water and avoiding drinks that cause dehydration like alcohol, avoiding overly salty and sweet foods, wearing clothes that will allow heat to dissipate and wearing sunblock lotion to prevent sunburn,” read the letter signed by health minister Mam Bung Heng.

“If you go outside, schedule outdoor activities for the morning, if possible, or in the evening when the temperature drops to the daily low while avoiding activities in the afternoon when the sun is hottest,” it added.

Family members should frequently monitor and inspect those vulnerable to the hot weather, including the elderly over the age of 65, those with serious medical conditions, children under 5, disabled persons and those with mental illnesses as they may need assistance or to be reminded to drink water and stay in the shade.

HelpAge Cambodia executive director Tum Vira said he is concerned about the health of the elderly, particularly now that the heat has begun to increase dramatically due to climate change, and his NGO has been bringing up these issues with the Association of the Elderly in Cambodia.

Vira said that overall, the elderly in the community often lack access to information so they are not aware when the weather becomes hot enough to pose a serious medical risk for them or what to do to mitigate the dangers.

“We are really worried that we see most of the community lacks information, so they are not careful,” he said.

He called on families with the elderly to watch out for their safety, especially the provision of necessary supplies or equipment, such as air conditioners or fans, for them to cope with the hot weather.

In Europe, at least 15,000 people died from extreme heat in 2022, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published in November last year. The Lancet also reported that more than 356,000 people worldwide perished from extreme heat in nine different countries in 2019 and that number was expected to rise along with the average global temperature over time.