Heatwaves are currently sweeping across parts of India, including West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, bringing with them sweltering temperatures and widespread concern. This rising phenomenon is not just confined to these states—other regions are also bracing for the possibility of intense heat.

A heatwave is a prolonged period of abnormally high temperatures, typically 5° C above the average, lasting for at least five consecutive days. In India, it occurs when temperatures exceed the normal maximum during summer (March to June, occasionally until July) in North-Western India.  

The criteria for a heatwave vary by local climates, making it region-specific.

IMD criteria for heatwave- 

For areas with normal maximum temperatures ≤40°C:

  • Heat Wave: Temperature departure from normal is 5°C to 6°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: Temperature departure from normal is 7°C or more.

For areas with normal maximum temperatures >40°C:

  • Heat Wave: Temperature departure from normal is 4°C to 5°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: Temperature departure from normal is 6°C or more.

If the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or above, a heat wave should be declared regardless of the normal maximum.

 

Heatwave in various regions of India in 2024. 

A severe heatwave is currently impacting large areas of India, with forecasts indicating extreme weather conditions will persist. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has alerted several states and advised the public to adopt safety measures to cope with the high temperatures.

Here's a concise summary of the heatwave conditions forecasted across various states in India:

  • West Bengal: Heatwave may persist until May 1st week, particularly affecting the Gangetic plains. A red alert has been issued.
  • Bihar: Severe heatwave expected until May 1st week, with a red alert for districts including Darbhanga, Motihari, Aurangabad, Banka, Sheikhpura, Jamui, Gopalganj, and Khagaria.
  • Odisha: Angul recorded 44.3°C, with high heatwave alerts in some regions.
  • Jharkhand: High alert issued. On April 21st, the highest temperature was recorded in Baharagora, East Singhbhum. Schools up to class 8th have been suspended in some areas
  • Gujarat: Heatwave warning for the Saurashtra and Kutch regions.
  • Andhra Pradesh: Severe heatwave expected in 58 mandals, with similar conditions in 148 mandals. Isolated areas in Rayalaseema and coastal regions also under watch.
  • Telangana: Yellow heatwave alert in 18 districts.
  • Karnataka: Heatwave conditions forecasted in Raichur, Yadgir, Kalaburgi, and Vijayapura.
  • Kerala: Heatwave warning in Palakkad with continuous high temperatures.
  • Maharashtra: Heatwave alerts for Thane, Raigad, and parts of Mumbai from April 27 to May 5th with peak temperatures expected in May. Jalgaon recorded a high of 42.7°C recently.

Impact of Heatwave on Health.

Heatwaves pose significant health risks including dehydration, heat stress/ exhaustion, and heatstroke, particularly affecting the vulnerable groups.

IMD recognizes these vulnerable groups- 

  • Infants/ young children
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic illness
  • People with mental disability
  • People working outdoors
  • Travellers from colder regions

Here are the key symptoms for heat-related illnesses:

Heatstroke

Heat Stress

Symptoms-

  • High Body Temperature: Core body temperature above 104 F (40 C).
  • Altered Mental State: Confusion, agitation, or even coma.
  • Dry Skin: Skin feels hot and dry in heat-induced cases.
  • Nausea: Feeling sick or vomiting.
  • Rapid Heart Rate: Increased pulse to cool the body.

Symptoms-

  • Muscle Cramps: Commonly in the legs.
  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired.
  • Dizziness: May lead to fainting.
  • Excessive Sweating: More sweating than usual.
  • Cool Skin: Skin may be pale and clammy despite the heat.

Safety from heatwave

Here is a list of Dos and Don’ts to be safe from the heatwave

DOs

DON’Ts

  1. Stay hydrated- 
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Carry water whenever you go outside
  • Bath at least twice a day.
  • Use ORS in case of dehydration.
  • Eat plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

   2.Stay covered- 

  • Wear thin linen or cotton cloths
  • Cover your head with caps, hats or towels when going outside.

   3. Stay indoors- 

  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Reschedule work to cooler times of the day like early mornings or late evenings.

  4. Be aware-

  • stay alert if people around you show signs of heat stress and heatstroke and tend to them.
  1. Don’t go out in the sun between 12:00 and 3:00 pm.
  2. Don’t do strenuous activities.
  3. Don’t cook in peak summer hours.
  4. Don’t indulge in alcohol or heavy food in summers that may cause discomfort and dehydration
  5. Don’t leave your children and pets in cars while running errands. Temperature inside closed vehicles get alarmingly high.

IMD advices an Emergency kit in this heatwave-

  • Water bottle
  • Umbrella/ Hat or Cap / Head Cover
  • Hand Towel
  • Hand Fan
  • Electrolyte / Glucose / Oral Rehydration

Heatwaves in India are dangerous. To stay safe, stay hydrated, avoid peak sun, use sunscreen, wear light clothes, and follow weather advisories. Community preparedness is essential to protect vulnerable populations.

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