Canadian summers are hotter than ever before, with recent research showing a significant increase in the number of extreme heat events across the country. While we love spending time outdoors in the summer, a fun day under the sun can quickly turn dangerous if you don’t take a few precautions.
Here are some tips that will help you learn the signs of heat illnesses and what to do about them, from Health Canada, which works with health partners across the country to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the risks of extreme heat.
Know the symptoms. Heat illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat fainting, heat edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles), heat rash and muscle cramps. Symptoms of heat illness are dizziness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, and decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine.
Know what to do. If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, immediately move to a cool place, such as a shaded area, and drink liquids — water is best. Immediate action is needed to minimize the possibility of developing heat stroke.
Don’t be afraid to get help. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you are caring for someone who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious or confused or who has stopped sweating. While waiting for help, cool the person right away by moving them to a cool place, applying cold water to large areas of the skin or clothing, and fanning them as much as possible.
Understand your risk. While extreme heat can affect everyone, the risks are greatest for older adults, infants and young children, people with chronic illnesses or on certain medications, people who work in the heat, people who exercise in the heat, and homeless people and low-income earners who may have less access to cool places. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are at increased risk, and check in on neighbours and others who may be vulnerable
Practice prevention. Some easy ways to stay cool are to drink plenty of liquids — especially water — before you feel thirsty, plan outdoor activities during cooler hours, and wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric. Take a break from the heat by spending a few hours in a cool place, like a tree-shaded area, community centre, shopping mall, or public library.