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Brace yourselves for hot weather and health risks, experts caution

National
 Football fan quenches thirst under scorching sun during half time in FKF Premier League match between Kariobangi Sharks and Nzoia Sugar at Utali Sports Club. Feb 8, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The dry season is here to stay – at least for the next one week – and conditions like high temperatures and low humidity are likely to persist. These conditions, health experts warn, are a good mix for effects such as dehydration, heat cramps and heat strokes.

In addition, malaria cases are likely to spike in disease-endemic zones as the hot weather encourages mosquitoes to thrive.

Public health experts are keen to note the number of people who will be afflicted by heat-related ailments, and how frequent and severe their suffering will be. They also want to understand how to protect the most vulnerable.

Dr Andrew Mulwa,  Director, Medical Services, Preventive and Promotive Health at Ministry of Health, observed that snakebites are also expected to increase during this season. He says that because of the heat, many reptiles will be moving to cooler places even inside homes.

“When it is excessively hot, many people get dehydrated. People with kidney disease or other diseases that require hydration experience a bigger problem,” Mulwa said. 

He said it’s important to understand the number of people who will be highly affected by the heat which will help in response to these cases. 

He expressed his concern following Kenya Meteorological Department’s forecast that most of the country will be sunny and dry. 

The forecast shows that maximum day-time temperatures are expected to remain higher than average in most parts of the country. 

In a seven-day weather forecast with a validity of February 7-13, Met Department Director David Gikungu noted that average daytime (maximum) temperatures are likely to be more than 30 degrees Celsius over some parts of North-western and North-eastern Kenya. 

The prediction further indicates that average night-­time (minimum) temperatures are likely to be moderate at 10 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius over some parts of the highlands east of the Rift Valley, the South-Eastern lowlands and the Rift Valley. 

The weatherman also cited Northwestern Kenya in the counties of Turkana and Samburu Counties experiencing the highest temperatures. 

In these counties, days are likely to be sunny and nights partly cloudy. Maximum daytime temperatures are likely to be between 28 degrees Celsius and 39 degrees Celsius.  Minimum nighttime temperatures are expected to range from 10 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees Celsius.

The forecast shows that the highlands east of the Rift Valley including Nairobi County, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Kiambu, Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi Counties days are likely to be sunny and nights partly cloudy. However, occasional afternoon showers may occur over few places.

“Maximum daytime temperatures are likely to be between 23 degrees Celsius and 32 degrees Celsius. Minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 03 degrees Celsius to 19 degrees Celsius,” read the report.

The highlands west of the Rift Valley, the Lake Victoria Basin, and the South Rift Valley in the counties of Kisii, Nyamira, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Siaya, Kisumu, Homabay, Busia, Migori and Narok Counties are likely to have sunny days and partly cloudy nights.

“However, occasional afternoon and night showers and thunderstorms may occur over few places,” the report noted.

Further, the forecast indicated that maximum daytime temperatures are likely to be between 27 degrees Celsius and 34 degrees Celsius and minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 06 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius.

In the North and Central Rift Valley, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo and Nakuru Counties, days will be sunny and nights partly cloudy. 

The maximum temperature for the day will likely range between 26 and 31 degrees Celsius. Minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 07 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees Celsius.

In North-­‐eastern Kenya counties of Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Isiolo Counties are likely to experience sunny days and partly cloudy nights.

The forecast shows the counties are likely to experience maximum day-­‐time temperatures between 32 degrees Celsius and 38 degrees Celsius.  Minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 17oC to 26 degrees Celsius.

The southeastern lowlands (Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, Kajiado and Taita-Taveta Counties. Days are likely to be sunny and nights partly cloudy.

Maximum daytime temperatures are likely to be between 27 degrees Celsius and  37 degrees Celsius. Minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 11 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius.

The Coast region of Mombasa, Tana-River, Kilifi, Lamu and Kwale Counties are likely to have sunny days and partly cloudy nights.

Maximum daytime temperatures are likely to be between 31 degrees Celsius and 34 degrees Celsius. Minimum night-time temperatures are expected to range from 23 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees Celsius.

Chief Research Officer at Kenya Medical Research Institute Simon Kariuki agrees with Dr Mulwa that there will be public health concerns arising from the excessive heat as shown by the Met department.

“It is important for people to keep their living space cool and drink fluids to avoid possible dehydration during this season,” Dr Kariuki recommended.

Kariuki advised that it is important to know how to keep yourself and your loved ones cool, hydrated and healthy during the hot season.

Public health officer for Kisumu Jeremiah Ogwara said it is imperative to be able to identify the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 

Ogwara observed that heat-related ailments such as measles and heat rashes were expected to rise during the hot season. 

Ogwara advised people to avoid overcrowding and ensure adequate ventilation in homes. He added that one should visit a health facility if they have a sudden high fever or neck stiffness. 

He said high temperatures can result in changes in the transmission of certain infectious diseases spread via water and mosquitoes, such as cholera, malaria and dengue fever.

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