It is that time of the year when those in the city start talking about something quintessentially Chennai - the summer heat. It is not uncommon to hear residents talk about how “it's already so hot”.

From students taking examinations and labourers to professionals, almost everyone has to bear the brunt of the summer heat in one way or the other.

According to the data provided by the Meteorological Department, the city saw one of its hottest March days last year, when the maximum temperature rose to 36.2 degree Celsius. In 2006, the maximum temperature recorded in March was 37.1 degree Celsius, the highest since 1953, when the March heat surpassed the 40-degree mark, touching 40.6 degree Celsius.

Officials of the Meteorological Department point to the prevalence of westerly winds, which normally set in during mid-April, and which in February this year led to hot weather and rise in maximum temperature.

However, the city is now experiencing easterly winds after March 8 and the temperature has dropped to close to normal.

Y. E. A. Raj, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, says the maximum temperature was one to four degree Celsius above normal of 30 degree Celsius during the second half of February. On March 1 and March 7, the mercury level rose to 36 degree Celsius against the average of 32 degree Celsius in Meenambakkam. “Chennai had an anomaly pattern of climate during February and early days of March. We cannot predict weather on a long-term basis,” he says.

February and March are relatively dry months in terms of rainfall. While interior parts of the State would have rains during April, the city would get thundershowers only during May, he adds.

Tackling summer

With the summer heat comes a host of other issues — summer ailments, security issues during vacation and the need to think of good pass times for children.

Paediatricians recommend investing care and money in children's health during the summer months. Apart from ensuring that children wear cool, loose cotton garments, it is necessary to keep them hydrated. Even young toddlers and infants should be given a wash twice a day. This will prevent boils and other skin infections, doctors say.

“Children suffer boils, pustules, and other infections as they play in the mud,” says P.S. Muralidharan, Additional Professor, Institute of Child Health. “Those who can afford should go for Hepatitis A and B vaccines, the effect of which lasts three years. Two doses are given at six-month intervals and then repeated after three years. The Indian Association of Paediatrics also recommends a second dose of MMR when a child turns five years old. Vaccinating children for chicken pox helps preventing the infection, Dr. Muralidharan says.

People living in tiled houses should beware that due to the heat scorpions tend to fall off tiles and sting children. Some children suffer respiratory problems when allergens such as pollen enter the bronchial tree narrowing the airways.

Holiday tips

Policeofficials have a word of caution to offer those going on a holiday. Some simple measures would ensure that the holiday remains a pleasant memory, they say.

P. Sakthivel, Joint Commissioner, South, says persons going on vacation should keep the police station informed. “We have a system called locked house register. Our personnel arrange for concentrated patrolling in the area. They will also check with the neighbours periodically,” he said.

While going away for a long duration, it is important to leave valuable in a safe deposit locker or leave them with relatives. Those who can afford it should post a watchman or have a relative to stay over or at least leave a message to the neighbour for the duration of the holiday. “Alerting the neighbour is important as at least they will call 100 to reach the place and prevent the offence,” Mr. Sakthivel adds. Measures such as focus lighting on the portico will deter prowlers. Installing a CCTV with one-month memory could also help.

Summer entertainment

Those who will not leave the city are already considering entertainment options in the city. “For parents like us, it is about keeping our child engaged, or we will end up losing all the patience we have,” quips S. Revathy, parent of a kindergarten child. “I am looking at different summer camps in our locality so that there is something interesting to keep my daughter occupied.”

S. Sasi, who is giving her board examinations, wants to join computer and spoken English classes this summer. “It'll help me when I go to college,” she says.

With each one considering a different plan, this summer is also likely to be as interesting as those earlier.

(With inputs from R. Sujatha, K. Lakshmi and Meera Srinivasan)

What they say

Shiv Das Meena, Managing Director, Chennai Metrowater: "We would be able to sustain daily water supply till mid-October with the available resources, including in city reservoirs. We have requested officials in Andhra Pradesh to continue release of Krishna water till April to bridge the shortfall. We are operating 1,200-1,300 tanker trips to provide water to those pockets that don’t receive piped supply. We will increase this if require. We also plan to purchase water from about 100 private agricultural wells in the city fringes, which is kept in reserve, in case of necessity."

Sujatha Sridharan, Paediatrician, Govt. Stanley Hospital: “It is very important to ensure that children drink enough water, as they play in the sun and lose water through dehydration. Excess sweating and inadequate intake of water result in loss of electrolytes. They suffer heat exhaustion, become weak and suffer cramps. Children are susceptible to diarrhoeal infections when they drink unhygienic fruit juices. Since infants could suffer hyperthermia, they should be frequently breastfed. Children of all ages must be bathed twice a day to prevent spread of bacterial infection caused by heat rashes.”

C.P. Singh, Chairman, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board: “The State Government has ordered the Electricity Board to ensure that there is no load shedding in Chennai and its suburbs this summer. Only high tension consumers are not covered under this scheme. The TNEB is taking up several steps such as commissioning of new substations, laying of new under ground cables, enhancing distribution transformers and installing or changing junction boxes. A circular has been issued to all officials to keep men, materials and vehicles ready to attend to breakdown calls immediately. The officials have been advised to respond quickly to requirements of the consumers.”